By Peter Sorkin
The four men, all from Brooklyn, are accused of carrying out 16 separate armed robberies against 18 individuals from Dec. 30 to Jan. 16, said Detective Carolyn Chew, a Police Department spokeswoman. Fourteen of the robberies were perpetrated against men and two against women, said Queens District Attorney Richard Brown.
Two of the defendants are charged in 16 incidents and the other two are charged in eight of those incidents, Brown said.
The four Brooklyn men who were arrested were Ariel Paula, 35, of 271 Linden St.; Alexander Candeleria, 24, of 316 Evergreen Ave.; Jessen Buezo, 18, 271 of Cooper St.; and Paul Justiniano, 21, of 32 Cedar St.
The suspects are all charged with robbery in the first degree, criminal possession of a weapon, and criminal possession of stolen property. A 9mm handgun and two knives were recovered as well as an undisclosed amount of cash and a large amount of stolen property, said Mary de Bourbon, a spokeswoman for the DA. The detectives also impounded their 1990 black Nissan Maxima, suspected of being the getaway car, she said.
The four men face a maximum of 25 years in jail on each robbery count if they are convicted, said de Bourbon.
“In virtually all the cases, male victims in their late 20s and early 30s were on their way home late at night in the Astoria section of Queens when the crimes occurred,” Brown said. “In all but two of the cases, they were alone. They were held up at gunpoint and their jewelry, credit cards, cash and other property were taken from them.”
Chew said detectives from the 114th Precinct observed the suspects at 42nd Street and Broadway in Astoria at 2:47 a.m. on Jan. 16 after they had allegedly robbed their 16th victim seven minutes earlier. The four men fit the description of the people wanted in the local string of robberies, she said. During the robberies, one man was always armed with a gun and the other always carried a knife, she said.
“Fortunately, none of the victims were hurt,” Brown said. “This case is a reminder of the days when it was not safe to walk the streets of this city. That is not the case today. Violent crime, as everyone knows, is down dramatically. This case is the exception. It is rare today that we see a case such as this – a case involving a pattern of late night gunpoint street robberies.”
The arresting detectives were Theresa Abberton and Anthony Budney, de Bourbon said.