EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

September 27, 2012

Cops: Cemetery purse thief nabbed

Boston man suspected of stealing purse from woman visiting grave in Haverhill

By Mike LaBella
mlabella@eagletribune.com

---- — HAVERHILL — A Boston man who staked out a cemetery to rob a woman’s purse from her car while she visited a grave is being eyed in similar crimes in the area, police said.

Pedro Colon, 51, of 20 Kemp St., Boston was charged this week with one count of breaking and entering a vehicle, larceny of a credit card and larceny below and above $250 for one purse he allegedly stole from a woman in Linwood Cemetery.

However, police Detective Capt. Alan Ratte said Colon is also a suspect in other crimes in the area, but he would not discuss what crimes as he said they are still under investigation. At least two similar thefts were reported at Methuen cemeteries in recent months.

“People need to lock their vehicles prior to visiting graves as when their back is turned they can very easily become a victim,” Ratte said. “Even though people may not believe a crime can take place in a tranquil place such as a cemetery, it actually happens more than you would think. Be vigilant of your surroundings.”

According to a police report on file in Haverhill District Court, a 60-year-old Plaistow woman had parked her car at the Linwood Cemetery in Haverhill Aug. 10 and was about 20 feet away from it when she heard a sound. The woman said she saw a man walking away from her car and noticed that he dropped a plastic jug. She said the man then ran to a waiting car, which she described as a white “boxy” vehicle, then he hopped into the passenger side while the car was in motion. She said the car drove off in the direction of John Ward Avenue.

The woman told police that before she could report her credit cards stolen, her credit card company notified her of two suspicious transactions.

Police said that shortly after the woman reported the theft, Colon and two accomplices, a man and a woman, tried to purchase $136 in goods at the Walmart in Methuen, but the credit card was denied. Police said they went to another register and tried to purchase $549 in goods, but again the credit card was denied.

Police were able to identify Colon through store surveillance video. The car that Colon and his accomplices were using was also identified and matched the description given to them by the victim.

During the investigation into the theft, a worker at the Linwood Cemetery told police he had been contacted by the Elmwood Cemetery in Methuen about two similar incidents that happened there and to be on the lookout for two men who were driving a small, “boxy” car. The worker gave police the license plate number of the car, which police said was registered to a woman in Lawrence.

On Aug. 23, police spoke to the woman to ask where her car was and she said boyfriend Pedro Colon had her car and that it was his birthday. Police showed the woman a photograph of the three suspects who’d used the victim’s credit card. The woman said she did not know the man and woman who were with Colon. The woman told police she had been in the Dominican Republic for the last month and just got back. Police told her that Colon had been using it to commit crimes. Police subsequently issued a warrant for Colon’s arrest.

During Colon’s arraignment Tuesday, Assistant District Attorney John DePaulo said Colon uses five aliases and different dates of birth and has a seven-page criminal record going back to 1981. He said Colon served time on a conviction in Roxbury District Court in 1987 on the charge of distribution of cocaine. DePaulo said Colon served two years for larceny of a motor vehicle in 1988, served one year for assault and battery on a police officer in 1992, served two years for distribution of heroin in 1998, served one year for distribution of cocaine in 2001, and in 2001 he was convicted in both Roxbury and Dorchester district courts for distribution of heroin, for which he received sentences of 2 years and 2 1/2 years, which he served concurrently.

Colon was provided with a Spanish language interpreter at his arraignment.

“He’s got an interpreter but he’s been doing crimes in America since 1981,” DePaulo said. “He understands every word I’m saying.”

Judge Patricia Dowling ordered that he be held on $10,000 cash bail.