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MTA police nab Bayside man suspected in iPhone train thefts

TimesLedger Newspapers

A suspected serial thief and source of recent delays for the Long Island Rail Road was arrested Monday, according to law enforcement officials.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority Police Department nabbed Thomas Gray, of 214th Place in Bayside, at around 11 a.m., thanks to some quick thinking on the part of the LIRR crew.

On Jan. 26, Gray allegedly stole an iPhone from a woman riding the 7:55 a.m. train from Port Washington to Penn Station, the MTA Police said.

According to an eyewitness account, the woman was holding her iPhone while the train was stopped at the Flushing-Main Street station at around 8:14 a.m.

As the doors began to close, a man in a brown leather jacket reached inside and snatched the device out of her hand before taking off down the platform stairs.

In response to the woman’s screams, the conductor got out and alerted police, delaying the train for at least 15 minutes. Other LIRR trains on the line were also delayed.

The phone was later recovered using an application that allowed it to be tracked, but Monday Gray got on a 10:49 a.m. eastbound train on the Port Washington branch.

Once onboard, he refused to pay for his ticket, the MTA police said.

While he was making a scene, some of the LIRR crew remembered him from the Jan. 26 incident and alerted MTA police, who apprehended him at the next station in Bayside.

“This is a good example of the LIRR train crews and the MTAPD working together in order to apprehend a thief,” said MTA Police Chief Michael Coan.

Gray is suspected of two other thefts on the train in addition to the Jan. 26 incident, according to MTA police.

On Feb. 19, 2011, he is suspected of stealing a purse, and on Jan. 6 this year he is suspected of stealing an iPod, the MTA police said.

Gray was charged with theft, criminal possession of stolen property and theft of service, the MTA said.

After he was nabbed, the president of the LIRR also praised the actions of the crew.

“I would like to commend the fast actions of the LIRR crew members and the MTA police that led to this arrest,” said LIRR President Helena Williams. “I urge our customers to be aware that iPhones, iPads and other popular electronic devices are increasingly the target of thieves onboard our trains.”

The theft of iPhones are also driving up larceny statistics all around the city.

And in October, a Jamaica teenager was stabbed to death by a group of men who wanted his iPhone.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone 718-260-4566.

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