Western New York law enforcement agencies connect the dots on widespread burglary ring
A collaborative investigation across four Western New York counties has put an end to the work of a widespread burglary ring.
Captain Kristen Neubauer of the Niagara County Sheriff’s Criminal Investigations Bureau said the collaboration grew out of an investigation into three burglaries in Niagara County in early October. Information from those burglaries led the Niagara County Sheriff’s office to a location in the City of North Tonawanda. It was there that approximately 1,300 pieces of stolen property were found.
Working with New York State Police, sheriff’s offices in Erie and Genesee counties, and the Lancaster and Lewiston police departments, the Niagara County Sheriff’s Office determined that the stolen property was related to cases from approximately 33 burglaries and one armed robbery in Erie, Niagara, Genesee and Wyoming counties.
“It’s really been a lot of just connecting the cases and going through the property, identifying it, identifying it to the owner, identifying it to the cases,” said Neubauer. “The DA’s offices in all of the counties are working together to put it into a package to understand how they’re going to collectively charge the four individuals we have at this time.”
John A. Battaglia, James M. Baglio, Kyle L. Wade, and Matthew J. Ratel were arrested by police in connection with the 34 thefts. Battaglia and Baglio are suspected by authorities of being the group’s leaders. Neubauer said the collaborative criminal effort by the four men qualifies them as a “ring” in the eyes of law enforcement.
“As far as if they were doing it with other people as well, we don’t have any indication of that,” said Neubauer. “But they are still ongoing investigations and if other witnesses or individuals come forward with that information, we’ll continue to look at it.”
Battaglia, Baglio and Wade face various counts of burglary in the 2nd degree, grand larceny in the 3rd degree, and criminal possession of stolen property in the 2nd degree in Niagara County. Additional charges are expected from other counties pending the return of evidence from forensic labs.
Authorities are slowly trying to connect the stolen property with the individual cases so that items can be returned to victims. For those that can be identified, Neubauer said the victims are grateful to be getting their items back.
“A lot of the stuff that was taken is jewelry that has a sentimental meaning to the individual that owned it, whether it be passed down from generations or gifts or whatnot,” said Neubauer.
The burglaries followed a modus operandi of forced entry during daylight hours when residents were less likely to be home. Neubauer said the targets appeared to be random and items stolen were those that were easy to walk away with.
“Not a lot of electronics, but they did take some portable electronics,” said Neubauer. “Jewelry. Guns were taken from one for the Erie County Sheriff’s Department – one of their cases – and also prescription meds. These prescription meds, we believe they probably were using them themselves, but also possibly selling them.”
It is believed the men ended up with so much property because they were unable to get rid of it quickly enough after committing so many burglaries.
Neubauer said collaboration allowed the successful investigation to happen.
“So often we only hear the case is in a silo, but this was a lot of investigators and detectives working together and communicating,” said Neubauer.
In spite of the success of the investigation, Neubauer said daylight burglaries and burglaries in general will continue to be an everyday occurrence. She said it is a constant reminder that residents should take steps to safeguard their homes.
“If people are mindful around maybe their home, how it appears, especially during the daylight hours if, in fact, no one is home during the day. Maybe speak with the neighbors, make sure they’re checking on each other’s homes,” recommended Neubauer.
Neubauer also recommends precautionary measures like alarms and said even an alarm sign can be a helpful deterrent.