By Kathryn G. Menu
A Springs man who grew up in Sag Harbor and is accused of being responsible for a slew of burglaries across the South Fork pled not guilty to a 27 count indictment last Thursday, November 7. In the indictment, Justin Bennett, 35, is charged with burglarizing more than two-dozen East End homes.
Bennett has been charged with 25 counts of burglary in the second degree, one count of attempted burglary in the second degree and one count of attempted burglary in the third degree, all felony crimes.
“As the indictment details, the defendant over the first 10 months of this year burglarized 25 homes in East Hampton, Southampton and Sag Harbor,” said Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota.
“He usually entered a house through an unlocked door, or he would use a poorly concealed Hide-A-Key that he’d find without much effort,” continued DA Spota. “From January through October, Bennett stole thousands of dollars of jewelry, including family heirlooms and engraved wedding bands, as well as cash.”
Police report Bennett’s alleged thefts totaled over $126,000 in cash, jewelry and prescription medicines.
According to DA Spota, in one attempted burglary on Flaggy Hole Road in East Hampton, Bennett was confronted by a resident of the home who was later able to identify him.
Bennett was arrested on Thursday, October 24 after East Hampton Town Police pulled over the 2003 Toyota sedan he was driving on Route 114. According to police, Bennett became a suspect in the mass burglaries based on witness descriptions of a dark colored sedan operated by a white male coupled with information provided by New York City detectives regarding the recovery of a significant amount of jewelry in their jurisdiction, which Bennett had allegedly pawned for cash. Several thousands of dollars worth of jewelry was recovered by detectives in New York City, said police.
According to the DA’s office, Bennett has admitted a severe heroin addiction that led him to commit the burglaries.
Bennett was initially charged with 14 felony counts of burglary in the second degree, two counts of attempted burglary — felony counts — one count of criminally possessing a hypodermic instrument, a misdemeanor, and one count of unlawful possession of marijuana, a violation.
According to East Hampton Town Detective Chris Anderson, police were able to clear 27 ongoing burglary investigations as a result of the investigation into Bennett. That includes 16 burglaries or attempted burglaries in East Hampton, 10 in Southampton and one in Sag Harbor Village. According to court records, in East Hampton the thefts occurred primarily in the hamlet of Springs. In Southampton, burglaries were reported most often just outside of Sag Harbor in Noyac and in North Sea, as well as neighborhoods in Bridgehampton.
DA Spota said that upon his arrest Bennett admitted to all 25 break-ins during interviews with detectives from East Hampton, Southampton and Sag Harbor police departments.
Bennett faces a maximum of 15 years in jail on each of the 25 burglary charges, meaning he could face as much as a sentence of 375 years.
“Because of the number of crimes he is alleged to have committed, and his severe heroin addiction, he is a serious flight risk and, as such, we asked for substantial bail,” DA Spota said.
Judge Richard Ambro set cash bail at $200,000 or bond at $400,000. Bennett is due back in court on December 6.