Suffolk County Police announced the arrest of four Calverton residents on Tuesday who stand accused of stealing more than $2,400 in frozen shrimp from supermarkets and then reselling the products to a Chinese food restaurant for drug money.
Seventh Precinct officers discovered a pattern involving the theft of frozen shrimp, which occurred at supermarkets across Suffolk County since December 2012. Cops said they pulled over a vehicle believed to be involved in the crimes and found stolen items inside the car. The driver and three passengers were arrested during that traffic stop on Jan. 30, police said in a Tuesday news release.
The four people arrested, Joseph Elardo, 34, Sharmane Cromer, 34, James Donnellan, 33, and Nicole Johnson, 22, all reside at the same home at 169 Southfield Road in Calverton. They were each charged with 22 counts of petit larceny, two counts of attempted larceny, two counts of possession of a hypodermic needle and criminal possession of a controlled substance.
According to investigators, the foursome was found to be “selling the frozen shrimp to a local Chinese restaurant to support their drug habits.” They sold the shrimp to only one man, Xue Chai Li, 34, the owner of Tai Yu Chinese Restaurant in Mastic Beach, cops said.
After an execution of a search warrant at the restaurant last week, Li was charged with fifth-degree criminal possession of stolen property and was also cited violation of the County’s sanitary code. Grace Kelly-McGovern, a spokeswoman for the Suffolk County Department of Health, said Li was issued a summons for violating both the Suffolk County and New York State Sanitary Codes by accepting “food from an unapproved source.” If Li pleads guilty or is found guilty of the violation, he faces a minimum fine of $600, she said. He is due in First District Court to address the criminal charges at a later date, cops said.
Surveillance video from at least one of the stores led investigators to the license plate of the vehicle that was stopped last week. Police said the investigation remains ongoing. Elardo, Cromer, Donnellan and Johnson were arraigned on Feb. 1 at First District Court in Central Islip. Court records show that they were each ordered held on $2,000 cash bail or $4,000 bond and are due back in court on Friday.