Suspect Arrested in Belmont Thefts
Updated: Thursday, March 5, 2009 10:38 AM
Posted: Wednesday, March 4, 2009 12:39 PM
A suspect allegedly involved with stealing equipment from the barns of Belmont Park-based trainers Bruce Levine and Linda Rice during the weekend of Feb. 28 was arrested by Nassau County Police on March 2.
Juan Bonilla-Pena, 49, a former employee of Levine’s, is currently being held on $5,000 bail in a Nassau County jail on two counts of criminal possession of stolen goods. A court hearing is scheduled for March 5.
Some of the stolen items, which totaled more than $15,000, included saddles, bridles, and an electronic magnetic blanket and a laser to treat splints and tendons, were recovered in a hay loft in Barn 14 at Belmont Park, according to Stanley Slevinski, the crime analyst for Nassau County’s Fifth Precinct, which is handling the case.
Slevinski said Rice’s barn was looted for $9,500 in tack, which was taken after the suspect broke the lock on the tack room door. The theft occurred in a barn where Rice is temporarily located while her regular stable is being renovated.
“Some of the items have been recovered, and I understand the other items might be recovered,” said Rice, who was in Florida at the time of the robbery. “(The police) are playing this close to the vest. I understand one person was apprehended, and there might be another person involved.”
Levine, who was also in Florida at the time of the theft, said the items stolen from him, an electronic magnetic blanket and a laser, were removed from his secured office at Barn 40, after the suspect destroyed the lock. Both pieces of therapeutic equipment, which Slevinski said totaled $5,800, have been recovered.
“The guy (Bonilla-Pena) they caught had worked for me once,” Levine said. “After he quit me, he stole GastroGard (ulcer medication) from my barn.”
Levine said Bonilla-Pena’s license was at one time revoked by the New York State Racing and Wagering Board, but he was reinstated on a temporary license, which he possessed at the time of the robberies.
John Lee, a spokesperson for the New York Racing Association, said the track's security department informed him that Bonilla-Pena was picked up by police on an unrelated matter, which led to the discovery of some of the stolen property.
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