A band of Texas outlaws traveled to Boston in May for a Celtics playoff game, then launched a two-day crime spree, using crowbars and a sledgehammer to steal safes and ATM machines full of cash, a Suffolk County prosecutor said Thursday.
“They know what they’re doing,” Andrew Doherty said during an arraignment in Suffolk Superior Court for one of the suspects, Fredrick D. Williams, a 29-year-old Texan with a lengthy criminal record. “These men act as if this is their business.”
Williams pleaded not guilty to 27 breaking-and-entering and larceny-related charges stemming from the brazen scheme. He and four associates allegedly stole three vehicles and broke into six stores in Greater Boston on May 18 and 19.
They got away with roughly $60,000, most of which was seized at Logan International Airport before they boarded a flight home, according to prosecutors.
Doherty said the men flew to Boston on May 17 for Game 1 of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals between the Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers.
Before the game, Doherty said, Williams walked into a hardware store wearing a LeBron James jersey and bought a pair of crowbars that he and his accomplices would ultimately use for their smash-and-grab operation.
James’s Cavaliers defeated the Celtics 117-104 that night.
Several hours later, at around 2:12 a.m. on May 18, Williams and his associates stole a van in Woburn and broke into a gas station in Everett, stealing a safe and damaging a cash machine, prosecutors said.
From there they traveled to Cambridge, busting into a gas station but getting cold feet when an alarm went off, according to Doherty. He said they ditched the van and the safe and fled.
They struck again soon afterward in Mattapan, stealing a second van and cruising over to a Dorchester gas station, authorities said. They tried to pry open a couple safes but again fled when an alarm sounded, according to Doherty.
They were “much more successful” in their attempts to steal cash early the next morning, he said.
The men stole a third van in Stoughton at 2 a.m. on May 19 and then took safes and ATM machines from a gas station and two convenience stores in Brockton, making off with a $60,000 haul by using crowbars, a sledgehammer, and efficiency, Doherty said.
He said investigators were struck by how the masked men “expertly . . . were able to break into the stores and get in and out” within minutes.
Prosecutors say Williams and his crew are linked to the burglaries by evidence including crime scene surveillance footage, cell tower location data, and travel logs at Logan.
Most of the money never made it past Logan’s security screeners.
Doherty said TSA agents questioned the men on May 19 after noticing large amounts of cash in their carry-on bags. Investigators seized two bags containing $53,420 in cash, Doherty said, and Williams took a third bag and left the airport.
The men were permitted to travel home after questioning from the Massport Drug Task Force.
But they were hardly home free.
Williams and a codefendant, Matthew Gallagher, 32, were recently extradited to Massachusetts from Texas. Gallagher’s arraignment is scheduled for Friday.
A third suspect is currently jailed in Florida on charges relating to a similar scheme in that state, Doherty said.
Two other suspects are still at large.
Prosecutors said the crew is suspected of additional burglaries in New Jersey and San Francisco.
Doherty requested that Williams be held on $500,000 cash bail, which Clerk Magistrate Lisa Medeiros imposed, citing Williams’s prior convictions for aggravated robbery, burglary, and engaging in organized criminal activity.
His court-appointed lawyer, Andrew Stockwell-Alpert, had asked Medeiros to set bail at $25,000 cash.
He said that while Williams may have purchased hardware equipment for other people, that alone “doesn’t implicate him in a large variety of break-ins.”