A Springs man was busted last week and admitted to a string of burglaries that East Hampton Town Police say he committed over several months this year, hitting at least 16 homes in East Hampton and Southampton towns, and Sag Harbor Village, and stealing more than $126,000 in jewelry, cash and prescription medications.
In a statement to police, part of documents filed with the courts as part of his arrest, Justin T. Bennett, 35, confessed to feeding his heroin addiction with money he secured from burglarizing houses, saying that his addiction had made him do things he wouldn’t have done if he were sober.
Mr. Bennett was arrested on Thursday, October 24, while driving down Route 114, according to police. Based on witness descriptions, his car, a 2003 black Toyota sedan that belongs to his girlfriend, and information provided by New York City detectives about a “significant amount” of jewelry recovered there, where Mr. Bennett was allegedly planning to sell it, he was a suspect in the burglaries.
Detective Lieutenant Chris Anderson declined to comment this week on what incriminating evidence led police to Mr. Bennett, saying that the investigation was ongoing and he could not divulge more.
According to court records, Mr. Bennett hit homes mostly on Springs roads: Montauk Boulevard, Sycamore Drive, Flaggy Hole Road, Lincoln Street, Bon Pinck Way, Gardiner Avenue, Middle Highway, Highwood, and Fort Pond Boulevard. He also hit a home on Ancient Highway off Route 114.
In his statement, he said he swung into Sag Harbor, hitting houses on and off Noyac Road. He also admitted to burglarizing homes in Southampton Town as well.
Southampton Town Police Detective Sergeant Lisa Costa said that he was primarily doing damage in the Sag Harbor area—10 homes, to be exact, in the Noyac corridor, from North Sea to Sag Harbor: Sunset Beach Road, Chestnut Street, Noyac Road in North Sea, Noyac Path, and Noyac Road, Carroll Street, Pine Neck Avenue, Glenview Drive, and Toppings Pass in Bridgehampton.
Sag Harbor Detective Jeffrey Proctor did not return calls for comment about Mr. Bennett’s connection to burglaries in Sag Harbor.
Working what took the place of a day job, Mr. Bennett said he broke into homes only during the day when no one was home. He told police that he never forced entry into the houses and had a very simple system when going in for the kill.
“I always look for a hidden key or an open window or door,” he said. “When I did a burglary, I had no plan. I saw a house, if it looked unoccupied, I would always park down the road and walk to and from the house.”
In some cases, he climbed through open windows, walked through an unlocked front or back door, or entered through an open garage.
Throughout his statement, he detailed homes that he hit, problems he encountered, and what he took from them. In one instance, a homeowner caught him on a property, and Mr. Bennett gave him his prepared answer: he was looking for his dog. “… And I walked away with no problems,” he said.
Other “jobs” went easier, and he walked away with thousands of dollars in cash in hand, multiple gold rings, pearl necklaces, jewelry with rubies, sapphires and emeralds, as well as more peculiar items, like antique dollars and a bottle of Valium.
He said it all went toward his habit.
“All cash I have taken has been used to buy my heroin,” he said, adding that all the jewelry he stole he took to different locations to sell.
He told police that he sustained a back injury several years ago and was given prescription pain medication “without question.” He said he has been an addict for two years and it has gotten harder and harder to get opiates for the pain.
He worked until the winter of 2012, when he had a falling out with his boss. In need of money, he turned to crime.
“I regret it and I feel horrible about where my addiction has gotten me,” he said in his statement to police. “I am so sorry for what I have done. I need help and I hope this starts me on the road to sobriety.”
When he was arrested on Thursday, he was charged with 14 counts of burglary in the second degree, all felonies, two counts of attempted burglary in the second degree, felonies, one count of criminal possession of a hypodermic instrument, a misdemeanor, and unlawful possession of marijuana, a violation. He is being held on $100,000 cash or $200,000 bond at the Suffolk County Jail in Riverside, and is due back in court on Wednesday. Suffolk County Assistant District Attorney Dan Cronin had asked that cash bail be set at $160,000.
The investigation is ongoing and anyone with information is asked to contact East Hampton Town Police at (631) 537-7575. All calls will be kept confidential.