by Barrett Seaman
When Irvington police officers went to investigate a home invasion and robbery at a Main Street apartment last August, little did they know that it would eventually lead to the round-up of a 10-man burglary ring responsible, said prosecutors, for a four-year “brazen crime spree” across Westchester, Rockland, Putnam and Dutchess counties, the Bronx, and Fairfield County in Connecticut.
Often armed, members of the gang routinely robbed both legitimate businesses and drug dealers in communities throughout the region.
Two men, later identified as Dennis “Bundles” Brown and Elbio “LB” Espaillat, barged into the apartment and ordered a 26-year-old male and his mother to the floor at gunpoint, then took the male into a separate room where they pistol-whipped him until he surrendered a large amount of cash. After the men fled the apartment, the victims waited an hour before calling the police, allegedly fearing their return.
Seven Irvington officers, including Detectives Michael Toolan and Erik Seman, were assigned the case. Using surveillance equipment, they identified the license plate and model of the getaway car and circulated the information throughout the county. Working closely with the Greenburgh Drug and Alcohol Task Force, the Irvington cops were able to locate the car and the suspects in Yonkers a few days later and set up ongoing surveillance.
The case quickly broadened, bringing in the FBI’s Westchester County Safe Streets Task Force. By March, Brown and Espaillat were linked to eight other gang members, and on April 6, a joint law enforcement team that included Irvington police rounded up the gang and arraigned them in federal court in White Plains.
“This case kind of exploded on us,” said Irvington Police Chief Michael Cerone. According to several reports, the 26-year-old man in Irvington was a bookmaker who got caught way in over his head.