PD: Graveyard Thief Also Robbed Banks
He’s twice been convicted of robbing banks. Now, just three weeks out of prison on parole, Suffolk County police allege Dix Hills’ Max Schneider and two others desecrated Pinelawn Memorial Park with hopes of feeding their heroin habit.
Schneider, 24, was one of three arraigned Friday on grand larceny and other charges stemming from allegations that they stole more than $53,000 worth of bronze graveside vases from Pinelawn Memorial Cemetery and sold some for scrap to buy drugs.
“It’s of sentimental value to people,” Det./Lt. Robert Edwards, commanding officer of the First Squad Detectives, said of the cemetery vases. “To these three individuals, who are heroin addicts, it’s only a way for them to get money.”
Officials said Nicholas Giambalvo, 27, also of Dix Hills, struck Pinelawn four times – on Oct. 1 and 16 and Feb. 5 and 6. Schneider allegedly accompanied him Feb. 5 and 6, and Elizabeth Dono, 27, of North Babylon, is said to have taken part on Feb. 5.
Before he was arrested Feb. 6, Schneider was released on parole three weeks earlier on Jan. 17 after spending 11 months in prison following a Dec. 3 bank robbery in West Babylon, according to online state prisoner records. He was previously arrested in March 2011 in connection with a string of bank robberies in Babylon, North Babylon, West Babylon, Commack, Deer Park, West Islip and Lake Grove. Schneider was busted on the Long Island Rail Road in March 2011 en route to New York City from Huntington.
Police officials said the suspects sold the vases, which the cemetery sells to the families for about $500, to a scrap metal shop for $10-$25 apiece. They typically made off with about 20 to 25 of them a run after using an axe-like tool to chop them off of their base.
Giambalvo and Dono, whom First Precinct Det./Sgt. Marco Giudice identified as a couple, are also accused of stealing copper pipe from a vacant North Babylon home in December.
Edwards said police have recovered about 90 of the vases, which were on display at a press conference at the First Precinct on Friday.
Justin Locke, the cemetery’s president, said in a statement Friday that Pinelawn will pay to replace any vases that are not recovered.
“Pinelawn Memorial Park considers it a fundamental part of its mission to safeguard and secure the graves and memorials of the deceased, and will continue to work with Suffolk County Police Department when such issues arise,” he said.
Edwards said that if the scrap yard that bought the vases knew they were stolen, they too could face charges.
“We’re still trying to look at the scrapping angle of it,” he said.
First Precinct officers rushed to Pinelawn, located on Wellwood Avenue in Farmingdale at approximately 12:15 p.m. Feb. 6. Cemetery staff called the cops after they spotted Dono’s 2010 Volkswagen Beetle, which police said had been used in the graveyard theft the day before.
“Pinelawn had some surveillance cameras set up and they were able to capture images of the suspect vehicle,” Giudice said. “They knew what they were looking for.”
When police arrived, they found Giambalvo and Schneider in the car, but when an officer tried to stop them, Giambalvo allegedly turned the Beetle into a battering ram, hitting the gas to plow through a locked metal gate. Giambalvo and Schneider were arrested in Massapequa following a brief chase, police said.
Giambalvo faces four counts of third-degree grand larceny as well as unlawfully fleeing an officer, third-degree criminal mischief, reckless driving and resisting arrest. Schneider is charged with two counts of third-degree grand larceny counts and resisting arrest. Dono was charged with one count of third-degree grand larceny.
Giambalvo and Dono also face burglary charges.
While being transported to court Friday, Giambalvo had noticeable cuts on his face; police blame those wounds on the pair of car crashes he was involved in. His attorney, Central Islip-based Christopher Brocato, could not be reached for comment by press time Monday.
“He did resist arrest, but the injuries were basically from the car crash. His car got pretty well beaten up,” Edwards said.
Dono’s attorney, Forest Hills-based Dennis O’Sullivan, said they are “in conversations with the district attorney’s office.”
“Her story will come out,” he said.
Schneider is being held on $51,000 cash and $152,000 bond, and was due back in court after press time on Feb. 11. Giambalvo was held on $17,000 bail/$34,000 bond, while Dono was held on $10,000 bail and $30,000 bond. All three were due back in court on Feb. 11.