A career criminal from Dorchester who is suspected in nearly 200 high-end apartment break-ins over the last year in various communities was arrested Monday at a Framingham motel with items from a recent haul, police said Tuesday.
Boston police Superintendent Paul Fitzgerald said during a press conference Tuesday at police headquarters in Roxbury that Craig Cromartie, 44, is believed to have made off with more than $1 million in stolen goods from his alleged crime spree.
A woman who returned a call left at a Dorchester number listed for Cromartie declined to comment Tuesday night.
“Let me just tell you this, don’t call here [any] more,” she said. “We have no comment, OK? That is our loved one.”
Police said Cromartie is suspected in a string of break-ins dating back to November in cities and towns including Boston, Worcester, Lynn, Needham, Swampscott, Brookline, and Natick.
He was arrested Monday at a Red Roof Inn in Framingham with items from a break-in that he allegedly recently committed, police said, and charged with three counts of breaking and entering at night with intent to commit a felony.
“He was as experienced with this as I am at my job,” Needham police Detective Joe O’Brien said.
Cromartie pleaded not guilty on Tuesday in Dedham District Court and was ordered held without bail because he violated bail from a pending indictment out of Worcester Superior Court, according to the Norfolk district attorney’s office.
Details of that indictment were not immediately available.
Authorities said Needham police identified Cromartie as a possible suspect after a break-in in that town about a month ago, based on the distinct nature of the crime. Police in several communities working as part of a special task force tracked him for weeks and waited to make the arrest until they had enough evidence to support criminal charges, officials said.
Police said Cromartie woke in the early morning hours to scout apartments and condominiums and often entered buildings through the mailroom, where he would look for large stacks of parcels in front of mailboxes, a clue that residents in those units were away on vacation.
He is suspected of stealing an array of items including expensive purses, jewelry, computers, rugs, and oil paintings, police said.
And, officials said, at least one person was willing to help move his stolen goods.
Boston police said officers on Monday arrested Florin Ghita, 62, of Weymouth, at a store he owns inside the Jewelers building on Washington Street in Downtown Crossing on a charge of receiving stolen property.
Police said officers executed a search warrant at the store and recovered several items that were reported stolen from an apartment building at 32 Garrison St. in the South End on May 15. Over $80,000 worth of merchandise was reported stolen from that address, including jewelry and computers, according to Boston police. Officers also recovered items from a recent break-in in Brookline at the store, police said. The total value of the items reported stolen in that incident was about $170,000.
Fitzgerald said Tuesday that Ghita is just as culpable as Cromartie.
“It’s one thing to steal; it’s another thing to have a place to sell your stolen goods,” said Fitzgerald.
Ghita pleaded not guilty at arraignment Tuesday in Boston Municipal Court and posted $3,000 cash bail, according to Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley’s office.
He is due back in court on July 19.
Ghita declined to comment when reached at his home Tuesday night.
“Looks like you have all the information, so what do you need from me?” Ghita said.
At Tuesday’s press conference, police displayed some of the allegedly pilfered merchandise seized from Cromartie’s home. Officials said police are investigating whether more people are involved in the operation, and additional charges are pending.
“He was a professional,” Fitzgerald said of Cromartie, adding afterward that he has previously been arraigned on hundreds of theft-related charges in various jurisdictions. “He made his living this way.”
Cromartie registered in November as the manager of a Marlborough-based limousine service company, C&C Limo Trans LLC, according to state records.