Three men arrested in Cortland burglaries

City police arrested three men for burglary over the last eight days after over a dozen burglaries plagued the city this month — one of the men was twice apprehended by officers after hiding in a closet and a Groton Avenue apartment.

Todd M. Brady, 29, of Park Street, was arrested Tuesday for entering two unoccupied buildings on Tompkins Street and taking items, according to the Cortland Police Department. Andrew Fiorentini, 36, and homeless, was found hiding in a closet of a Clayton Avenue residence that was burglarized and arrested June 20, according to city police. Nathan Prentice, 29, of Merrills Creek Road, Marathon, was also arrested June 20 for burglarizing two homes on Groton Avenue and Prospect Terrace, city police said.

“City police have responded to over a dozen reported burglaries this month alone,” wrote Lt. Michael Strangeway in a news release. “These break-ins and thefts have primarily occurred at student housing locations that have been left vacant for the summer.”

Brady was arrested for entering an unoccupied residence between May 31 and June 5 near the YMCA on Tompkins Street and stealing a generator, weed trimmer, and electric race timer, according to police. He was also arrested for entering another residence near the Citgo gas station at the intersection of Delaware Ave. and Tompkins Street and stealing a digital clock, police said.

Officers arrested Brady about 2 a.m. Tuesday with an arrest warrant on South Avenue, according to the release. He was charged with two counts each of felony second-degree burglary and petit larceny, a misdemeanor.

Prentice was arrested June 20 after Sgt. Detective Dan Edwards’ week-long investigation determined Prentice broke into a vacant student housing property on Groton Avenue, Strangeway wrote in a news release. When investigators arrested Prentice, they discovered items taken from another burglary Prentice committed on Prospect Terrace that had not been reported, Strangeway stated. Prentice was charged with two counts of felony second-degree burglary and misdemeanor petit larceny.

Hide and seek

Fiorentini was arrested after Patrolman Adam Troyer and rental owner Nikolas Stavioboulas discovered him hiding in a closet on June 20 at Stavioboulas’ ransacked Clayton Avenue property, according to court testimony.

“I opened the closet door and he was standing inside,” Troyer said during a Tuesday preliminary hearing in City Court. The hearing was held to determine if there was enough reasonable cause to believe Fiorentini committed the felony second-degree burglary he is charged with; City Judge Elizabeth Burns ruled there was. Fiorentini was also charged with petit larceny, criminal tampering and criminal Mischief, all misdemeanors.

After his arrest, Fiorentini confessed in a videotaped interview he previously stole a 30-inch Samsung television from the property and he already sold the TV, testified Sgt. Detective Dan Edwards, a veteran of the city police for the last 30 years, four months and one day.

Stavioboulas first arrived on June 20 at the apartment house to meet a contractor he had hired to fix his sprinkler system, Stavioboulas testified. When Stavioboulas entered the house he saw the furniture was upside down and discovered after he walked around the property all the apartment doors were broken, he testified.

Stavioboulas called the police from the first floor of the apartment house and reinspected the property with Troyer when he arrived, this time looking under beds and opening up closet doors, Stavioboulas told the court. When they arrived at the second-floor apartment and opened the closet, they found Fiorentini, he said.

“This fella over here,” testified Stavioboulas, identifying Fiorentini and a picture of the closet at the hearing. “That’s a closet. The guy was in there.”

Troyer testified a window was removed from the side of the Clayton Avenue property and the doors were damaged consistent with kicking the doors.

Second arrest

The Clayton Avenue apartment house is the second unoccupied residence police officers discovered Fiorentini inside within the last month.

About 10:30 a.m. on May 30, police discovered Fiorentini and three other homeless people at an unoccupied apartment on Groton Avenue, according to city police.

In that case, officers were sent to a residence near the intersection of Groton and Graham Avenue after a tenant reported items missing from her home, according to police.

When officers arrived at the single-family house that was converted into four apartments, they discovered doors open to vacant apartments and Michael Leonard, 30, who is homeless standing on the front porch of one of the open, unoccupied apartments, said Strangeway.

Leonard was holding a bottle of wine and a hammer on the porch and when officers tried to speak with him, Leonard ran, according to police. Officers chased him down quickly and arrested him, according to the department.

When officers searched a vacant apartment they also found Fiorentini hiding, along with Amber Malloy, 35, and Mary Crysler, 36. All three were arrested.

Unlike Fiorentini’s most recent arrest, there was no evidence to show he had stolen any items from the apartments so Fiorentini was charged with second-degree criminal trespass, a misdemeanor, Strangeway said. Fiorentini was released after his City Court arraignment on the misdemeanor.

‘Been living there for months’

Fiorentini and the others were likely living out of the Groton Avenue apartment for an extended time period, Strangeway said.

“They had a television hooked up. They had food items stored there,” said Strangeway, noting the water and electric service was operational. “It was set up as if they’d been living there for months.”

Police contacted the local property owners and they told officers they could not recall the last time they visited the Groton Avenue house, but stated they had a workman there within the couple weeks prior to the incident, Strangeway said. Cortland County property records reveal the owners are Ravi and Bharati Desai.
The apartment house at 77 Groton Ave. owned by the Desais is listed as a single-family residence on the property records, but it does have a rental permit and no code offenses were lodged against it, said former Director of Code Enforcement and Deputy Fire Chief Bill Knickerbocker on May 31. Knickerbocker retired Wednesday.

‘Tempting scenario’

Strangeway said he was not surprised homeless people were staying in vacant apartments, but it is not a frequent occurrence in the city. He also noted that burglaries, homeless, addiction and poverty are interrelated issues.

“Those struggling with addiction problems can sometimes find themselves homeless,” Strangeway said. In those cases, an individual is breaking into a home to get money for general purchases, as well as for drugs, and for shelter. Strangeway added, “The problems of addiction, homelessness and poverty are certainly not unique to this area.”

Expensive items students leave behind in apartments in between semesters and school years is another enticement for burglaries, Strangeway said.

“The college students that leave behind large, flat-screen televisions and game systems in residences that won’t be utilized for a period of time in excess of two months provides a pretty tempting scenario for a homeless, drug addicted person,” he said.

Strangeway noted all of the recent burglaries occurred in college housing properties.

“Break-ins at college housing is a problem we deal with any time the students are away for any extended period of time. We deal with it to a lesser extent during the winter break, but summer is prime time,” Strangeway said. “During the time when they’re here, there’s a fraction of the number of burglaries that there are when students are away.”