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How the No-Locks Burglaries Case Got Unlocked

New technology with a license plate reader was one of the tools used to track down two men in connection with the recent spates of burglaries in town; but store cameras, electronic credit card records and shoe leather played vital roles, too.

At about 1:40 a.m. on June 17, an Edgewood Road woman sleeping on a couch was woken up by her dog as it barked and ran toward the kitchen.

She followed the dog, found the back door open and figured friends of her son forgot to shut it. She went back to sleep.

It was only the next morning that she noticed her pocketbook, a Gateway laptop computer, a red Game Boy Color and green Game Boy Advance were all missing from the kitchen table.

Those stolen items would later figure in the arrest of Nelson Rivera, 24, of Trumbull, accused of being one of the burglars in a ring that swept through Darien neighborhoods last month. Thieves opened unlocked vehicle and house doors at dozens of homes in town.

unlocked the case partly with one relatively new technological tool—a license plate reader—and two older technologies—store video cameras and credit card records.

They also got cooperation from a witness who may have had no idea that the rental car she let her boyfriend use was, according to police, the car used to drive to and from the burglaries.

The following account of the investigation comes from the Darien police affidavit for a warrant to arrest Nelson Rivera, the first man taken into custody in the case. This account is only from the police perspective, and Rivera (as well as Livelle Sampson of Bridgeport, also arrested in connection with the case) have not been found guilty by a court of law.

Darien Police Sgt. Jeremiah Marron, a spokesman for the department, could not be reached for comment on Monday.

The day after the burglaries

After the Edgewood Road woman got up the next morning and noticed several of her possessions gone, she checked her online MasterCard statement. She found her card hd been used at a McDonald's restaurant in the Bronx at 7 a.m., and later at a garage and movie theater in Manhattan.

On the day the Edgewood Road woman was discovering someone using her stolen MasterCard, about a thousand feet away a Parsons Lane woman was also disturbed to find her pocketbook missing. It had been stolen from her unlocked, 2005 Acura MDX parked in her driveway.

The purse and nearly all of its contents were later found dumped near 15 Fairfield Ave. Missing from the items recovered was an American Express credit card in her name.

Tale of two cameras

At 2:56 a.m., June 18, that credit card was used at a gas station in Bridgeport. That station had surveillance cameras, and those cameras allowed police to see a man get out of a silver vehicle parked near the gas station, then buy $175.03 worth of cigarettes and cigars. He carried them back to the car in a large black plastic gag.

Since the man was wearing a sweatshirt and baseball cap (with a large white "Y" on the front), police could not see his face well enough to identify him. They did know that the man signed his name as "Nelson Rivera" when he used Perry's credit card.

Here's where the newer technology came in: On the night of June 17-18, when the burglaries took place, Darien Police Officer Daniel Gorton was in a marked patrol car with a license plate reader (also known as an LPR). The LPR not only captured images of car license plates, it also recorded the time the picture was taken and the latitude and longitude.

Silver car identified

Gorton was parked off of Middlesex Road between the intersections of Edgerton Road and Noroton Avenue, and at 12:07 a.m. on June 18, according to his device, it took a picture of a passing silver car.

The car was later identified as one rented by Cristiana Cusano, who said she rented it on behalf of her boyfriend, Joshua Rivera, 21, because he didn't have a credit card and therefore couldn't rent it himself.

By June 19, Darien detectives had connected the silver car in the Bridgeport gas station's surveillance tape to the silver car seen in the LPR Gorton was operating. They spoke with Cusano, who cooperated with them.

"Cusano immediately identified the male seen in the footage as Nelson Rivera by his gait, style of dress and mannerisms," Detective Chet Perkowski wrote in the arrest warrant application now filed in state Superior Court in Stamford.

A visit to the Rivera neighborhood

By about 7 p.m. that day (June 19), Perkowski and another Darien detective had stopped by the Rivera home in Trumbull and saw the car Cusano had rented parked in the driveway.

At 8:15 p.m., a man got in the car and started driving it away. The two Darien detectives stopped the vehicle and found that Nelson Rivera was the driver. They also saw a big black plastic bag in the car, a red Gameboy Color video game system on the back seat and a Coach brand wallet on the floor in front of the back seat.

Trumbull police were called in, and they seized both the vehicle and Rivera. The next day, police were able to get a search warrant to look inside the vehicle.

Stolen items found

"[D]uring the search of the vehicle a AAA membership card was found on the rear floor," Perkowski wrote. It belonged to the Edgewood Road woman. A blue baseball cap with a large white "Y" on it was also found, and it matched the description of the hat worn by the man buying cigarettes at the gas station.

The Gateway laptop stolen from the Edgewood Road home was found to have been pawned by Rivera but later retrieved by him on June 20. The serial number recorded by the pawn shop showed it was the one owned by a resident in the Edgewood home.

Arrested and in jail

By June 25, Darien police applied for and received approval for a warrant for Rivera's arrest.

Rivera was arrested by Darien police on Monday, June 28 and that day or the next was arraigned in state Superior Court in Stamford. He remains in jail on $50,000 bond, and his next court appearance is scheduled for July 11.

Rivera was charged with two counts of using a revoked credit card to buy less than $500, two counts of credit card theft, and one count each of second-degree and third-degree burlary.

Police later arrested Livelle Sampson, 21, of Bridgeport, on an accusation he helped in the burglary scheme in some way. Darien police have said the investigation is continuing and more arrests are expected.

Editor's note: These other articles are also related to the string of burglaries:

  • (Friday)
  • (Wednesday)
  • (Monday)
  • (June 19)
  • (June 11)
  • (June 5)
max July 03, 2012 at 11:43 AM
Good story. Lucky that they drove past the LPR, otherwise this would probably not be solved. Technology seems to be a major contributor to the law enforcement efforts. Maybe more LPRs posted all over town, not just mounted on police cars.
Ed Infurna July 03, 2012 at 01:09 PM
True man of genius test!...Steal credit card. Name on card: Perry. Your name, Nelson Rivera. So, what name do you sign when you use stolen card?: a. Perry? b. A made up name? c. Your own, real name? If you answered "c.", congratulations, you are a "real man of genius!!!
David Gurliacci (Editor) July 03, 2012 at 01:51 PM
I'm thinking of doing a follow-up article on these license plate readers. Here are some questions I have about them. If readers are interested, tell me in the comments what questions you'd like answered, and I'll try to find out more: (1) How much do they cost? (2) How many do Darien police have? (3) How long have Darien police been using them? (4) How do they, essentially, work? (5) How do Darien police normally use them? (6) What potential uses are there? (I'm sure the manufacturer makes loads of suggestions.) (7) If I'm late re-registering my car, am I going to be stopped by a Darien cop using one of these things? (8) How widespread are these things in other police departments? (10) Do cops hold them or are they in a fixed position in or on the police car? (11) Can we expect a lot more of these to be used in the future? Is the technology such that they could be mounted permanently at certain points and just identify cars driving by? (12) Is the price going down as it does with other technology? (13) Set up two of these on a road and it should be pretty easy to figure out which cars are speeding, right? Can we expect that in our future? (14) How long do police keep records from these? If you have any other questions I haven't covered here, just make a suggestion here in the comments.
Siwanoy July 03, 2012 at 08:09 PM
I think all of those questions are valid questions, i'm not sure you'll be able to get answers for all of them, but even if you had half of them I think it would be a very informative article. At about 20,000 a piece, I'm sure every tax payer has some opinion on them! Maybe an article for another day, but it would also be interesting to know how much Darien spends per squad car (Even ignoring the SUV ones).. 2 automatic license plate readers, 40k? , LED light bar, 3k.. i'd imagine they're driving around in cars worth close to 100k.. not sure if that's above avg. or not though.

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