Bel Air police have arrested a New York man they believe is part of a group of immigrants from Albania and the former Yugoslavia allegedly responsible for more than 100 burglaries and the theft of millions of dollars from stores along the East Coast.
John W. Harkins, deputy chief of the Bel Air Police Department, said the New York-based group is blamed for more than 100 burglaries along the Interstate 95 corridor from New England to the Carolinas. Those include break-ins at the Super Fresh Store in the Bel Air Plaza April 4 and the May burglary of a Magruder's supermarket in Annapolis, plus additional burglaries in Baltimore, Harford, Anne Arundel, Calvert and St. Mary's counties.
Vesel Jurcevic Gjeka, 29, of the Bronx was caught running from the Giant Food store in Tollgate Mall early Sunday morning.
He was arrested and charged with breaking and entering, malicious destruction of property and being a rogue and vagabond.
Mr. Gjeka was being held at the Harford County Detention Center yesterday in lieu of $250,000 bond.
Police were called Sunday by Giant employees who heard noises from the roof about 4 a.m.
Officer First Class Frank Krick spotted two men jumping from the store's roof and running across Tollgate Road into a housing development.
Officer Krick chased the suspects on foot and tackled Mr. Gjeka.
The second suspect eluded a massive manhunt conducted by Bel Air and state police as well as Harford sheriff's deputies and a state police helicopter.
Mr. Gjeka's arrest was the first in the Maryland break-ins, Deputy Chief Harkins said.
Deputy Chief Harkins would not disclose the number of individuals believed involved in the alleged ring, but said a similar incident occurred at a store in Fairfax County, Va., last Sunday.
Law enforcement officials have said as many as six people participate in each theft.
In the Anne Arundel County burglary, thieves punched a hole in the store's roof, used tools to break open a safe and took only cash.
The group apparently formed about two years ago in the New York area.
Deputy Chief Harkins said his department is sharing information with the FBI and law enforcement agencies on the East Coast.
He said police have linked the alleged ring to robberies on the East Coast beginning in May 1991 and have been investigating its connection to Maryland incidents since April of this year.