Winning lottery tickets turned out not to be so lucky for some burglary suspects.
Thanks to an alert clerk who notified police that the winning scratch-off tickets she was asked to cash were stolen, three people have been arrested and two others are being sought in connection with a series of burglaries in Buffalo and Hamburg. One of the suspects has been charged with an Amherst burglary and additional charges are possible.
The break-ins occurred in July, including five in one night in Hamburg.
The break in the case came when one of the suspects cashed in about $150 worth of scratch-off lottery tickets that had been reported stolen and a clerk in a Buffalo coffee shop furnished police with information leading to an arrest, A. Daniel Shea, Hamburg chief of detectives, said Wednesday.
Rande King, 40, of Lancaster, was working for a cab company at the time and a cab was dispatched to pick him up for work. However, two Hamburg police cars were waiting nearby and arrested him.
"It was a great collective effort" by the three police departments to crack the case, Shea said.
Buffalo police have filed charges in connection with one burglary. Detective Sgt. Thomas Donovan of the Central District said police are investigating whether they were involved in as many as a dozen others.
He agreed with Shea's assessment of the effort.
"There was no politics involved," he said. "We just decided to work together and get these guys."
Five burglaries were reported the night of July 12 at Hamburg businesses, including a beverage store where a quantity of lottery tickets were taken along with more than $1,000 in cash and cigarettes.
In all of the break-ins the thieves were able to remove the cylinder locks from the front door.
Hamburg sent out information on the burglaries and heard back from Buffalo police that they had had similar ones.
The lottery tickets led to the arrest of King on July 20 and police later arrested Zuleika Cruz, 29, of Buffalo, and William Berry, 49, of New York City. They have been charged with the five Hamburg burglaries, and two additional suspects are being sought.
They also have been charged with a burglary of a Radio Shack in Buffalo that occurred over the July 4 weekend.
Amherst police on Wednesday charged Berry in connection with three recent burglaries and are seeking a second suspect, according to Detectives John Trabert and Ted Dinoto.
Berry also is wanted by New York City police in connection with similar burglaries there, Shea said.