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DA: Thieves who preyed on the elderly charged

gavelNov. 3, 2016 Staff Report

Three family members were recently charged for scamming and robbing elderly residents throughout Queens in five separate incidents, according to Queens District Attorney Richard Brown.

Tony Cristo, 35, his sister Rosie Cristo, 42, and his ex-wife Teresa Howard, 36, allegedly tricked their way inside elderly residents’ houses, pretending to be a granddaughter or former neighbor and bringing along a child to distract homeowners while stealing from them.

According to the victims’ reports, Tony Cristo would act as the driver, while his sister, Howard, and two other suspects who have not yet been apprehended would enter the homes and steal cash and valuables.

The first incident occurred on July 25, when a female suspect who has not yet been captured entered the unlocked Flushing home of a 91-year-old woman and claimed to be her granddaughter. When the victim’s daughter caught the woman, the suspect pretended to be a former neighbor, but the daughter kicked her out and told her that she was calling the police. According to the report, Tony Cristo was driving the Green Pontiac that the suspect left in.

Several weeks later on August 10, Howard and Rosie Cristo brought a 10-year-old blonde girl with them to the Maspeth home of an 83-year-old woman, where they rang the doorbell and asked to speak to the upstairs tenant. When told he was not home, they asked to leave a note and left. Several hours later, the homeowner noticed that her purse was missing with $60, photographs, her ID, and medical cards inside.

That same morning, Howard, the blonde girl, and two other suspects that have not yet been caught entered a home on 69th Street in Jackson Heights, where they asked the 90-year-old husband and 88-year-old wife to look at the construction happening in their home. They pretended to be former neighbors and entered the bedroom, where the female homeowner was resting, and left after asking about family photos. The homeowners later discovered $6,400 missing from a dresser drawer.

On August 20 and 86-year-old man let Howard in to his Flushing home believing her to be someone he knew named Maria. He offered her cookies and coffee, and she allegedly went to the bathroom to speak on her phone many times. He was unsure if any valuables or money were missing from his home.

The final incident that led to the arrest of the three charged suspects was on August 26, when a 59-year-old man alleged that two women, one slim like Howard and one heavier set like Rosie Cristo, entered his home. Supposedly the slim woman asked to use his bathroom while the other woman sat in his kitchen eating cake. They left after several minutes, and the man noticed that a roll of $200 wrapped in a rubber band and his Chase credit card were missing.

The two women were seen walking from the home and entering a green Mazda driven by Tony Cristo. Police stopped the vehicle and discovered cash rolled up in a rubber band, the victim’s Chase credit card, and cake.

The suspects have been variously charged in four criminal complaints with the crimes of second-degree burglary as a hate crime, second-degree burglary, third-degree grand larceny as a hate crime, third- and fourth-degree grand larceny, fourth- and fifth-degree criminal possession of stolen property, first- and second-degree scheme to defraud and petit larceny.

The charges were heightened under the provisions of New York State’s Hate Crimes Act of 2000, which allows enhanced charges to be filed when a defendant is alleged to have selected his or her victim because of their disability or for being 60 years of age or older.

Bail was set at $135,000 for Tony Cristo, $25,000 for Rosie Cristo and Howard was ordered remanded on two out-of-state warrants.  The three defendants are scheduled to return to court on November 29.

Officials are still investigating the case and searching for the two other suspects, as well as any other similar incidents.

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