DARIEN, Conn. – A couple of stolen purses thrown into a Dumpster and a stolen cellphone dropped in a motel parking lot played key roles in helping Darien police nab three Florida men on car burglary charges.
Last week, police arrested three Fort Lauderdale men in connection with a series of smash-and-grab car burglaries. The three men, Oliver Chance, Kenton Chance and Jerevonte Bray, were arrested in West Haven with the assistance of West Haven police. They are believed to be part of a nationwide organization known as the Felony Lane Gang, according to police.
Darien Police Sgt. Jeremiah Marron said the gang has more than 700 known members who have committed crimes in at least 40 states.
The Felony Lane Gang is based out of the Fort Lauderdale area and has been in operation for at least 10 years.
The three gang members hit parked cars at Cherry Lawn Park and the YMCA in Darien last week. On Monday, Sept. 7 they smashed windows to two cars at Cherry Lawn Park and grabbed three purses that contained cash, credit cards, gift cards and licenses.
The following evening the 18-year-old owner of one of the purses stolen received a call from an employee of an urgent care facility in West Haven, notifying her that her purse and her mother’s purse had been found in a Dumpster. That connection to West Haven proved vital, Marron said.
On Wednesday, Sept. 9, they hit the YMCA, smashing windows to three cars and grabbing purses that again contained cash, credit cards and licenses. They also grabbed an iPhone from one car.
Police had surveillance footage from the YMCA showing three men arrive in a white Ford Explorer, jump out and go up and down the aisles, checking cars for valuables. The Explorer appeared in the parking lot twice that morning, once with Florida plates and once with Connecticut plates that were later found to have been stolen in Stamford.
Police also used the Find My iPhone app to track the stolen cellphone, which was shown to be in West Haven, near where the purses had been found.
Marron said officers started to head to West Haven, then saw that it was coming down I-95. Police set up in Westport, ready to catch whoever had the phone, before seeing that it had stopped at the rest area in Fairfield.
When police arrived, they discovered that the phone was in a white box truck. They stopped the truck to find a 60-year-old New Jersey man, who had found the phone in the parking lot of a motel in West Haven and turned it on, figuring someone would track it. The driver wasn’t charged but Darien police began coordinating with West Haven police to conduct surveillance on the motel.
Eventually, while police were conducting surveillance, they spotted the Ford Explorer and took the three men into custody. They were found with thousands in cash, as well as stolen credit cards, purses, and other items.
Marron said the only thing linking the three men to the Darien burglaries was a change purse stolen out of a car at the YMCA. No items from the Cherry Lawn burglaries have yet been recovered, he said.
On Saturday morning, West Haven police arrested three more men who had been working with the three arrested by Darien police, Marron said. Before being arrested, the three men had hit a state park in West Haven, breaking windows to unlock trunks and steal valuables.
Marron said the Felony Lane Gang can be linked to crimes in Darien dating back at least two years. They always use rental cars, usually from the Fort Lauderdale area, and will typically hit fitness centers, parks and daycares. They often stay at local motels while committing their crimes, he said.
The Felony Lane Gang is believed to have been involved in recent burglaries in Greenwich, Stamford, and Trumbull as well as several towns in Massachusetts. Marron said police are investigating connections to other crimes, including a recent theft of a truck and a gun in Darien.
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