By Carlotta Mohamed
Three Maspeth residents were each sentenced last week to 10 years in prison for a series of burglaries that victimized Queens seniors in their homes, according to Queens District Attorney Richard Brown.
“These despicable defendants targeted senior homeowners in the neighborhoods of Jackson Heights, Flushing and Maspeth during the summer months of 2016,” Brown said. “The defendants, in some instances, pretended to be a granddaughter or a former neighbor to gain entry and at times would be accompanied by a pre-teen girl to distract the homeowners and steal their money and valuables.”
The three defendants were identified as Tony Cristo, 37, and his ex-wife Teresa Howard, 38, both of 69th Street in Maspeth, as well as his sister, Rosie Cristo, 34, of 69th Lane in Maspeth. All pleaded guilty to second-degree burglary as a hate crime before Acting Queens Supreme Court Judge Barry Kron July 6, Brown said.
Cristo and Howard were each sentenced to 10 years in prison, plus five years post release supervision, and Rosie Cristo was sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison to be followed by 2 1/2 years post release supervision before Queens Supreme Court Justice Kenneth Holder.
Brown said that under the provisions of New York state’s Hate Crimes Act of 2000, enhanced charges can be filed when a defendant is alleged to have selected his or her victim because of their age, which is defined as being 60 or older.
According to one criminal complaint, a 91-year-old female Flushing homeowner was in her 50th Avenue residence on the afternoon of July 25, 2016, when a still unidentified female entered the premises through the unlocked front door and claimed to be the homeowner’s granddaughter.
Minutes later, the homeowner’s daughter entered the home and confronted the woman and escorted her out of the residence, where she saw the female enter a green Pontiac with Tony Cristo in the driver’s seat. The homeowner’s daughter approached the vehicle and told Cristo and the female to leave and that she was calling the police.
According to a second criminal complaint, an 83-year-old Maspeth woman was inside her 56th Drive residence on the morning of Aug. 10, 2016, when Howard and Cristo, along with a 10-year-old blonde girl rang her doorbell. Howard and Cristo told the homeowner they would like to speak with the upstairs tenant, but were told he was unavailable. They had asked for a pen and paper to leave a note, and then left the premises with the child. A few hours later, the homeowner discovered that her purse, which contained $60 cash, photographs, a non-driver’s identification card and medical insurance cards, was missing.
In another incident that same morning, Howard and unapprehended two others — a male and female — and a nine-year-old girl visited another residence on 69th Street in Jackson Heights. They asked the homeowners — a 90-year-old man and his 88-year-old wife — if they could look at construction work that was happening in the home, claiming to be former neighbors of the homeowners. The female homeowner was in her bed in the bedroom, when Howard and the unapprehended female were asking about family pictures on the dresser and asked for a tissue. After they left, the female homeowner discovered that $6,400 in cash was missing from the top drawer of her dressing, Brown said.
Ten days later, on Aug. 20, 2016, Howard visited an 86-year-old Flushing man in his Benham Street residence, who thought she was a woman he knew as “Maria” but later realized she not. While having cookies and coffee with the homeowner, Howard asked to use the bathroom on at least 10 occasions, during which the homeowner could hear her using the telephone in the bathroom. It’s unknown if any money or valuables were taken from the home, Brown said.
On Aug. 26, a 61-year-old Flushing man was inside his Woodside Avenue residence when two women — one heavyset and the other slim — entered his home. Police had identified Howard as the slim woman, and Cristo as the heavy set woman. Howard had asked to use the bathroom, while Cristo sat in the kitchen eating cake. After a few minutes, both women left the premises, when the homeowner realized that approximately $200 in cash, which was rolled up in a rubber-band, and his Chase credit card, were missing from his top dresser drawer.
According to Brown, police saw Howard and Cristo leaving the residence in a green Mazda driven by Tony Cristo. In stopping the vehicle, police recovered cake and a sum of cash rolled up and held by a rubber-band. The Chase credit card belonging to the homeowner was recovered within the police vehicle that took Howard to the precinct.
Reach reporter Carlotta Mohamed by e-mail at cmoha