Police make arrest in robberies of Queensbridge blind man

By Chris Engelhardt

A Brooklyn man was arrested last week on charges of robbing a 73-year-old blind man twice in two weeks at his home in the Queensbridge Houses, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said.

Construction worker Ronald Rhodes, 46, of Brooklyn, was arraigned July 18 by Queens Criminal Court Judge Donna Golia on two criminal complaints and charged with burglary, robbery, criminal obstruction of breathing or blood circulation and criminal mischief.

Rhodes, who faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted, is being held on $175,000 cash bail or $300,000 bond. He is scheduled to return to court Aug. 5.

According to the first complaint, the victim was inside his apartment near 41st Avenue and 21st Street in Long Island City on the morning of June 29 when Rhodes approached him from behind and ripped the chain from around his neck before fleeing.

Citing the second complaint, Brown said the elderly victim left his apartment house elevator at 1 p.m. July 9 and was opening the door to his apartment when Rhodes placed his hands over his mouth and pushed him into the apartment. Rhodes allegedly placed his hands around the victim’s neck and applied pressure, causing him to lose consciousness, the complaint said.

In addition, as Rhodes allegedly choked the man, he told him to, “Give me the keys,” the complaint said. When the victim regained consciousness, he said he noticed his keys, cellphone and cash missing from his pocket and the lock to his closet had been broken, the DA said.

The victim was taken to Mt. Sinai Hospital and was listed in stable condition, police said.

Queensbridge Houses video surveillance of June 29 allegedly shows Rhodes walking into the building and through the building’s lobby behind the victim. Brown also said video surveillance from July 9 allegedly shows Rhodes walking in the same direction as the elderly man and following him into the building and through the lobby. Surveillance footage from inside the elevator that day shows the man getting out at his floor and Rhodes standing outside the elevator as the doors opened.

In statements made to police officers following his arrest, Rhodes allegedly admitted to following Brandon into the building, entering the victim’s apartment behind him and removing the chain from around his neck June 29. Rhodes also stated he sold the chain in Brooklyn for $50 cash and five bags of heroin, reported the DA.

For the July 9 incident, Rhodes allegedly admitted to following the victim into his building, waiting for him to leave the elevator on his floor and placing his hand over Brandon’s mouth and pushing him into his apartment. Rhodes also admitted to taking cash and a cellphone from the man’s pockets as well as breaking the lock on the closet, the DA said.

“The victim in this case was a 73-year-old blind man whom the defendant allegedly preyed upon because of his disability — believing that identification would prove difficult,” Brown said in a statement. “However, there were electronic eyes throughout the public housing development where the victim lived which are alleged to have recorded the defendant’s movements. He now faces the possibility of a lengthy prison sentence.”

Detectives assigned to the NYPD’s Queens Robbery Squad conducted the investigation.

Attorney Pamela Jordan, who is representing Rhodes, did not return calls for comment.

Reach reporter Chris Engelhardt by e-mail at cengelhardt@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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