Cops: Calverton crew stole shrimp for drugs

Calverton shrimp for drugs caper
SUFFOLK POLICE | Clockwise from top left: Nicole Johnson, Joseph Elardo, James Donnellan and Sharmane Cromer.

Two men and two women who lived together in Calverton were arrested last week for allegedly stealing frozen shrimp from supermarkets, then selling the food to a Mastic Beach Chinese restaurant to support their drug habits, Suffolk County police said.

Investigators discovered a pattern of frozen shrimp thefts that amounted to $2,400 worth of stolen shrimp that went missing from supermarkets in eastern Brookhaven Town. Last Wednesday, Jan. 30, officers pulled over a suspect’s vehicle and found stolen proceeds inside, police said.

James Donnellan, 33, was arrested Jan. 30, with Joseph Elardo, 34, Sharmane Cromer, 34, and Nicole Johnson, 22, all being charged Jan. 31, according to court documents.

Also on Jan. 31, police executed a search warrant at Tai Yu Chinese Restaurant in Mastic Beach and arrested owner Xue Chai Li, 34, of Mastic Beach for criminal possession of stolen property.

Members of the Suffolk County health department assisted with the search and issued the restaurant a sanitary code violation for an unapproved source of authorized food, officials said.

Sgt. Joseph Suarez of the Seventh Precinct Crime Section said police had been investigating a petit larceny case unrelated to the stolen shrimp. From that investigation they identified the suspects now in custody and linked them to open cases involving shrimp, he said. Police confirmed the thefts through video surveillance at a supermarket the suspects were believed to be targeting.

The suspects had a bag of stolen shrimp in the car when police pulled them over, and one suspect had a crack pipe, Sgt. Suarez said. The suspects allegedly had hidden bags of frozen shrimp in their carts and under their clothing, Sgt. Suarez said.

Riverhead Town police had also arrested Ms. Cromer Jan. 23 for allegedly stealing $30 worth of yogurt from a Middle Country Road Gulf gas station, town police said. She was charged and released on $100 bail for that offense.

Together, the four residents of 169 Southfield Road, off Youngs Avenue, face 22 counts of petit larceny and two counts of attempted larceny. Mr. Elardo and Ms. Johnson also face a charge of possession of a hypodermic needle and Ms. Cromer faces one count of criminal possession of a controlled substance, Suffolk police said.

All suspects were arraigned in First District Court in Central Islip and are due back Feb. 8, records show.

A lawyer for Ms. Johnson, as indentified in online court documents, was not immediately available for comment.

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With Carrie Miller

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