EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

June 26, 2013

AG: Merrimack Valley ring responsible for ATM breaks, other thefts

By Warren Talbot
wtalbot@eagletribune.com

---- — LAWRENCE — The sentencing of a Lawrence man to 16 years in state prison has brought to a conclusion a six-year investigation into a statewide ATM and electronics theft ring operating from the Merrimack Valley, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley’s office announced yesterday.

A total of 16 men and women — more than half of them from Lawrence — have pleaded guilty and got sentences ranging from probation to 16 years in state prison. The guilty pleas were made over the last 21 months during an investigation involving the state police, FBI and local and county law enforcement agencies.

Among the last to be sentenced were Miguel Caraballo, 42, and George Velasquez, 36, both of Lawrence. They received the longest sentences.

On May 22, Caraballo, the alleged ringleader, pleaded guilty to indictments in Essex, Hampshire, Norfolk, Middlesex, Franklin and Worcester counties and received 16 years in state prison, with 10 years of probation to serve upon completion of his sentence. He was also ordered to pay restitution in an amount to be determined. His charges included 11 counts of breaking and entering in the night, five counts of breaking and entering into a vault, 12 counts related to stolen motor vehicles and 14 counts of conspiracy.

Velasquez pleaded guilty to indictments in Middlesex, Norfolk and Worcester counties and was sentenced to seven to eight years in state prison, with 10 years of probation to serve upon completion of his sentence. He was also ordered to pay $134,162 in restitution. His charges include six counts of breaking and entering in the night time and six counts of conspiracy.

The defendants also included James McNeil, 45, of Haverhill, who during the 1990s was part of a safecracking and burglary ring that carried out as many as 600 jobs in the six New England states. The ring’s biggest hauls included more than $200,000 from a safe in the Andover home of the owner of the former Cedar Crest Restaurant; $200,000 worth of merchandise from an appliance store in Connecticut in 1993, and $190,000 in jewels from Gold Leaf Jewelers in Haverhill in 1997.

On April 9, 2012, McNeil pleaded guilty in Worcester Superior Court to various charges and was sentenced to one year in the House of Correction, with three years of probation concurrent with his sentence.

Ten of the defendants are from Lawrence; two from Haverhill and the rest from Methuen, Dracut, Lowell and Pepperell. Four of them are women.

The guilty pleas were made over the last 21 months stemming from the investigation that began in March, 2007.

The 16 were charged in March of 2011 for their involvement in an ongoing scheme to commit numerous burglaries and break-ins across the state, including the robbery of $340,000 in cash from several ATMs.

Investigators discovered that Caraballo, and associates Michael Vasquez, Wilson Martinez, and Feliciano Colon — all from Lawrence — broke into an electronics store in upper New York and then, using two stolen delivery vans, transported the goods back to the Lawrence area where they intended to sell the items in Massachusetts, according to Coakley’s office.

The investigation revealed that Caraballo, Velasquez and Juan Rosa, also from Lawrence — burglarized banks and businesses in Massachusetts. They often used their friends or girlfriends as lookouts.

They broke into ATM vaults several ways, including the use of a cutting torch and the attempted use of a circular power saw.

ATMs in Brookline, Acton, Bedford, and Tyngsboro were successfully broken into by members of the group, while failed attempts were made in Amherst, Gardner, Fitchburg and Whately. Caraballo and his associates also broke into businesses in Dedham, Fitchburg and Leominster.

“The convictions we have obtained were the result of countless hours of diligent, painstaking investigative work combined with a commitment to bring these people to justice. It is rewarding to us and, we hope, also to the banks and people who were victimized, to announce these convictions, Colonel Timothy P. Alben, superintendent of the Massachusetts State Police, said in a statement.

The rest of the defendants and their sentences follow. Charges include breaking entering at night, breaking and entering into a vault, larceny of a motor vehicle, possession of burglarious tools, malicious destruction of property, larceny over $250, attempted larceny and conspiracy.

Vilma Torres, 38, Lawrence: Pleaded guilty Sept. 30, 2012 to indictments in Worcester and Middlesex Superior Courts; sentenced to 2½ years in the House of Correction, suspended for a probationary period of 5 years. She was also ordered to pay $15,000 in restitution.

Juan Rosa, Sr., 45, Lawrence: Pleaded guilty May 17, 2012 to indictments in Middlesex and Norfolk Superior Courts and sentenced to 5 to 6 years in state prison, with 5 years of probation to serve upon completion of his sentence. He was also ordered to pay $48,017 in restitution.

Francisco Ortiz, 39, Dracut: Pleaded guilty May 15, 2013 in Worcester Superior Court; sentenced to 78 days in the House Correction, deemed served, with 3 years of probation to serve upon completion of his sentence.

Angel Rivera, 35, Methuen: Pleaded guilty April 12, 2012 in Norfolk Superior Court; one year in the House of Correction, with three years of probation concurrent with his sentence.

Brett Ferraro, 25, Lawrence: Pleaded guilty Feb. 14, 2012 in Hampshire Superior Court; three years in state prison.

Jose Torres, 35, formerly of Lawrence, currently of Duncanville, Texas: Pleaded guilty Oct. 25, 2011 in Middlesex Superior Court; 2½ years in the House of Correction, with nine months to serve and the balance suspended for a probationary period of five years. He was also ordered to pay $5,000 in restitution.

Michael Vasquez, 31, of Lawrence: Pleaded guilty Sept. 30, 2011 in Essex Superior Court; six to seven years in state prison.

Feliciano Colon, 39, Lawrence: Pleaded guilty Oct. 24, 2012, in Essex Superior Court; two years in state prison.

Wilson Martinez, 35, Pepperell: Pleaded guilty Oct. 18, 2012 in Essex Superior Court; two years in state prison.

Wilson Martinez Sr.,44, Lawrence: Pleaded guilty March 20, 2012 in Norfolk Superior Court; one year in state prison.

Kimberly Rosado, 34, Haverhill: Pleaded guilty June 21, 2013 in Hampshire, Worcester, and Norfolk Superior Courts; 2½ years in the House of Correction, suspended for a probationary period of 5 years.

Luz Denise Lewis, 29, Lowell: Pleaded guilty On May 20, 2013 in Norfolk Superior Court; 2½ years in the House of Correction, suspended for a probationary period of 5 years.

Yessenia Silva, 31, Lawrence: Pleaded guilty Feb. 3, 2012 in Worcester Superior Court; 2½ years in the House of Correction, suspended for a probationary period of three years.