A home in Maspeth, one of the neighborhoods targeted by three serial burglars//Eagle photo by Katie Finkowski.

Maspeth’s Thieving Trio Scammed Queens Seniors

David Brand

The three thieves pretended to be grandchildren, they said they were old neighbors, they even recruited children to assist in their schemes — anything to get inside senior citizens’ home and steal their stuff.

Now the trio of Maspeth schemers are headed to prison for up to 10 years, having been sentenced yesterday in Queens Criminal Court. The three thieves targeted senior homeowners in Jackson Heights, Flushing and Maspeth in the summer of 2016, said Queens County District Attorney Richard A. 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,” Brown said. “The sentence imposed by the court today is more than warranted and punishes the defendants for their criminal acts.”

Tony Cristo, 37, and his ex-wife Teresa Howard, 38, both pleaded guilty to second-degree burglary as a hate crime. Cristo’s sister, Rosie Cristo, 34, pleaded guilty to second-degree attempted burglary as a hate crime before Acting Queens Supreme Court Justice Barry S. Kron on July 6.

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 they are 60 or older.

Tony Cristo and Howard were each sentenced to 10 years in prison plus five years post release supervision. Rosie Cristo was sentenced to three and a half years in prison and two and a half years post-release supervision.

According to one criminal complaint, a 91-year-old woman in Flushing was in her 50th Avenue residence on an afternoon in July 2016, when another woman entered through the unlocked front door and posed as the homeowner’s granddaughter.

Minutes later, the homeowner’s actual daughter entered the home, confronted the thief and escorted her out of the home. The daughter saw the suspect enter a car driven by Tony Cristo. The daughter then approached the car and told Cristo she was calling the police.

In a second criminal complaint, an 83-year-old Maspeth woman was inside her home in August 2016 when Rosie Cristo and Howard rang the doorbell. They were accompanied by a 10-year-old girl.  Howard and Cristo told the woman they wanted to speak with the upstairs tenant. They left after writing a note for the upstairs tenant.

A few hours later, the woman discovered that her purse, which contained $60 in cash, was missing.

Later that morning, the three suspects approached another home in Jackson Heights with a 9-year-old girl. They told the homeowners — a 90-year-old man and his 88-year-old wife — that they were former neighbors and then asked if they could look at construction work that was happening in the home.

One of the suspects asked for a tissue and the homeowner left the suspects to fetch it. After the suspects left the homeowners discovered that $6,400 in cash was missing from the top drawer of her dresser.

That same month, an 86-year-old Flushing man was in his home when Howard knocked on the door. Thinking she was someone he knew, he allowed her to enter. She used the bathroom at least ten times, but the homeowner was unsure if Howard stole anything.

Later that month, a 61-year-old Flushing man was inside his home when two women entered his home.  One woman asked to use the homeowner’s bathroom and proceeded to do so while the other sat in the kitchen eating cake. After a few minutes, both women left the premises and the homeowner realized that about $200 in cash was missing from his top dresser drawer. The women also stole his credit card.

Tony Cristo was seen driving the two women away from the home. Soon after, police stopped the car and found the cash and credit card.  

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