An expert thief who was nicknamed the “ninja burglar” of Staten Island for his daring heists has been apprehended. A longtime felon, the burglar has been linked to more than 200 burglaries in and around the region.
After managing to evade arrest for almost a decade, the ninja burglar of Staten Island is now behind bars. He is said to be involved in more than 200 robberies in the New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut area. However, his favorite location was Staten Island. The burglar targeted more than 100 homes in the region, reported the New York Daily News. The burglar has been identified as Robert H. Costanzo.
Costanzo, 46, is believed to be a hardened career criminal. Moreover, he is a convicted rapist from New Brighton. The ninja burglar was arraigned in court after NYPD officers turned him over to the Staten Island Police Department in connection to a home invasion. Costanzo was in front of a judge for all of two minutes for his arraignment at 10 a.m. The judge presiding over his case was Judge Ray Rodriguez. The criminal had already pleaded guilty in a case of home invasion and robbery. Costanzo robbed the house in Farmington, Connecticut, at knifepoint, according to a report by the Hartford Courant.
Richmond County District Attorney Michael E. McMahon announced Tuesday that the dreaded ninja burglar suspect was in custody. Neither the attorney nor the officials divulged the name of the suspect. However, McMahon held a press conference to discuss the case.
For the entire duration of his arraignment, Costanzo didn’t utter a single word, however, moments after being assigned an attorney, reporters were told Costanzo is waiving a grand jury and will enter a guilty plea in a separate courtroom on Wednesday, reported CBS New York. As part of the plea deal, a second hearing will be convened, where the judge will sentence the ninja burglar. It is not immediately clear if Costanzo would be charged with some or all of those incidents or additional ones, reported SI Live.
How did Costanzo earn the ninja burglar nickname? The nickname stems from an eyewitness and victim account. In 2007, Dongan Hills resident Phil Chiolo allegedly had a nunchucks-vs-knife battle with a burglar. The intruder in his home was dressed like a ninja, he said. Chiolo insists he managed to wound the burglar by stabbing him with a steak knife, but the latter managed to flee and successfully evaded arrest. The nickname was further cemented after another victim walked in on an active crime in progress.
Seeing the burglar, she reportedly screamed, “The Ninja is here! The Ninja! The Ninja!”
The ninja burglar is also a registered sex offender. Costanzo, a Butler Terrace resident, was convicted of breaking into a 66-year-old woman’s home in 2014. After forcing the woman out of her bed in the middle of the night, the burglar sexually assaulted her. Thereafter, he forced her to reveal the combination to her safe and made away with approximately $75,000 worth of jewelry.
The ninja burglar is believed to have been actively seeking homes to ransack in the Staten Island area since 1991, but his crime spree and notoriety skyrocketed in 2007. During May 2007 and January 2008, the ninja burglar is believed to have broken into 19 homes. The police believe all the burglaries were committed by Costanzo because of very similar patterns observed in all of the break-ins.
It is unclear if all of the 200 burglaries were committed by the same man. Authorities believe a trio of robbers may have copied the techniques that were repeatedly followed by the ninja burglar. Criminal experts examining the evidence insist the three men were Albanian and had been facing deportation because of their illegal status in this country.
[Image via New York Criminal Justice]