A homeless drug addict was under arrest, charged as the St. Raymond’s Cemetery ghoul believed responsible for ripping off up to $180,000 in bronze and copper mausoleum fixtures there.
Louis Peduto, 56, was arrested late Tuesday afternoon near the Throggs Neck cemetery.
He was charged with larceny and possessing burglary tools and drugs, police said..
Law enforcement sources said the suspect treated the cemetery as his own scrap yard, returning over the past several months to rip off the fixtures to sell for drug money.
“You can tell from the green oxidation where the cuts were made that it’s been going on for awhile,” said one source.
One of the busiest cemeteries in the nation with about 4,000 plots, officials there and their private security firm finally became aware of the one-man grave robbing operation in the last week or two after they noticed several brass door knobs to mausoleums had been loosened - “with the anticipation that they would be taken at some future date,” said Jonathan Greenspun, spokesman for FJ Security.
A security employe on alert surprised Peduto at a mausoleum over the weekend, and had the presence of mind to snap his picture on his cell phone, said Greenspun.
“The employee walks up to the guy and asks him ‘What are you doing,’” said a police source. “He takes a picture of him and the guy takes off, leaving his bag behind, with burlgar tools in it.”
The worker later identified the suspect in “a six pack” photo array, police said.
The photo was circulated to police on Tuesday and they began “checking out scrap metal places, subways, relatives places drug C.I.’s (confidential informants),” said a police source.
Two uniformed cops arrested Peduto, described as “a homeless heroin junkie,” later that afternoon at a pizza shop on E. Tremont Avenue, a block north of the cemetery.
“He’s a bottom feeder, with a string of 30 collars for drugs, farebeating and other minor arrests,” said the police source.
Local City Councilman Jimmy Vacca responded to the thievery, saying he was outraged.
“ Only desperate and rotten people would do something like this,” said Vacca. “The words disgusting and beneath contempt only begin to describe how I feel about anyone who would vandalize a grave site.
As for cemetery security, one local funeral director said the 180-acre cemetery can make for difficulty patrolling, even by car.
The cemetery is divided into the 130-year-old cemetery which runs along E. Tremont Ave. and the newer cemetery on the south side of Lafayette Avenue next to the Hutchinson River Parkway and the Throgs Neck Bridge approach.
“To do it right, you probably need at least three cars to cover both cemeteries,” said the funeral director, who asked not to be named. “That’s a lot of territory to cover.”
But a person answering the phone at the cemetery office said it has two cars usually patrolling. They declined to give any further comment.
The cemetery is home to a mix of the famous and the infamous, including singer Billie Holiday, boxer Hector “Macho” Camacho, R&B/Doo-Wop great Frankie Lymon, several congressmen, gangsters, and “Typhoid Mary” Mallon.
Joseph Zwilling, spokesman for the Archdiocese of New York, said the Catholic cemetery “is attempting to contact the families of the mausoleums that were involved in this crime.” He thanked the police “for their careful handling of this matter.”
©2013 Community News Group