By Cynthia Koons
Two officers went into the store undercover to purchase knives and DVDs last week, Lt. Louis Riccardo of the 109th Precinct said, in order to collect enough evidence to secure a search warrant.
When the police entered the College Point store Monday, they seized more than 1,000 pirated CDs and 1,000 illegal DVDs with titles as new as “The Passion of the Christ,” “Hidalgo” and “Havana Nights,” Riccardo said. The team of officers also found BB guns that resembled real weapons, bullets and illegal semi-automatic and .44-caliber guns, he said.
“We figured the guy might have a regular handgun under the counter, but he didn't,” he said. “We wound up coming out with a lot more (than we expected).”
On Monday night, three men were arrested in connection with the operation, which was run at 15-04 College Point Blvd.
Detective Frank Seabrook at the 109th Precinct identified the suspects as Joseph Sonenfeldt, 36, Joseph Morales, 51, and Lawrence Decker, 53. They face a total of 50 counts, including multiple charges of forgery and criminal possesion of a weapon, he said.
Stolen credit cards, fireworks and knives were also recovered from the store, police said.
With bags full of CDs, DVDs and a table full of weapons around him Monday evening in the precinct, Riccardo said the police arrested the owner of the store and two employees, who allegedly had been operating the business for 10 months.
City Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside) alerted police to the suspected operation at the store in a letter dated Feb. 13 after a resident told him that students at PS 29 were being suspended for carrying pocket knives and lighters that resembled guns.
He notified the police and the Department of Consumer Affairs.
In a letter to Avella, the city agency said it issued citations to the store for allegedly operating as an unlicensed secondhand dealer. Whether the goods were legally obtained, the Department of Consumer Affairs said, was a matter for the police.
“Consumer Affairs apparently was able to get in there first and they issued a couple of citations,” Avella said. “It goes to show you, sometimes you have no idea what's operating in your own community.”
He said he was grateful that parents alerted him to the suspicious business after the students told them the knives and lighters were from Joe's Used Furniture store.
“It's an excellent example of how the community can be very effective of being the eyes and ears for the police,” he said. “It really sounds like this was a dangerous location, even more than we suspected.”
Reach reporter Cynthia Koons by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 141.