Today’s news:

Feds find Astoria auto thief with DNA: DA

A 29-year-old Astoria man was the first person charged in Queens as part of a federal DNA matching program after he is alleged to have stolen a Jeep in front of a home in April, the Queens district attorney said.

Gary Yerganian, of 30-71 34th St. in Astoria, was arraigned July 14 before Queens Criminal Court Judge Toko Serita on charges of grand larceny, criminal possession of stolen property and unauthorized use of a vehicle, Queens DA Richard Brown said.

The city Police Department began collecting DNA samples from stolen cars in Queens and Brooklyn March 1 as part of a federally funded program aimed at combating auto theft.

Yerganian was the first person charged in Queens under the pilot program.

The defendant, who was held on $100,000 bail, could face up to seven years in prison if convicted, the DA said.

“This case once again underscores the importance of taking DNA samples from convicted criminals,” Brown said. “DNA is an important law enforcement tool that protects the innocent and punishes the guilty.”

Yerganian’s arrest was the result of a DNA “cold hit” after DNA that was found in an automobile the defendant allegedly stole was matched with DNA from his profile from a previous conviction, the DA said.

An Astoria woman had reported to police that her 2004 Jeep Liberty was stolen April 4 along 35th Street around 4 a.m.

On April 21, the defendant was arrested as he allegedly attempted to break into another automobile in Astoria, the DA said. At the time of his arrest, police found the 2004 Jeep Liberty idling in front of the vehicle that Yerganian was allegedly attempting to burglarize.

The Queens North Evidence Collection Team processed the Jeep for DNA, swabbing skin cell DNA from its steering wheel, rearview mirror and gear shifter handle, Brown said. A criminologist within the city Chief Medical Examiner’s Department of Forensic Biology office determined the DNA testing of the swabs revealed a single-source male profile.

The profile was uploaded into the state’s DNA index system, where it allegedly matched the defendant’s sample, which had been submitted Nov. 8, 2006, the DA said.

Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at nduke@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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