By Lisa Redmond
WORCESTER -- Sixteen men and women, including several from Lowell, Dracut and Pepperell, were sentenced Tuesday to probation or prison in a widespread ATM and electronics-theft conspiracy that spanned six counties and netted more than $300,000.
In March 2011, the 16 suspects were charged for their involvement in an ongoing scheme to commit numerous burglaries and break-ins across the state, including the robbery of $340,000 from several ATMs, according to state Attorney General Martha Coakley's Office.
The crimes were committed in Essex, Hampshire, Norfolk, Middlesex, Franklin and Worcester counties.
ATMs in Brookline, Acton, Bedford and Tyngsboro were broken into by members of the group, while failed attempts were made in Amherst, Gardner, Fitchburg, and Whately.
An investigation into the string of break-ins by the Massachusetts State Police Gang Unit began in April 2007 and merged with a similar investigation being conducted by the FBI.
Investigators discovered that a major figure in the operation, Miguel Caraballo, 42, and associates Michael Vasquez, 31 and Feliciano Colon, 39, all of Lawrence, and Wilson Martinez, 35, of Pepperell, broke into an electronics store in upstate New York. Using two stolen delivery vans they transported the goods back to the Lawrence area where they intended to sell the items in Massachusetts. Caraballo and his associates also broke into businesses in Dedham, Fitchburg and Leominster.
The investigation revealed that Caraballo, with assistance from George Velasquez, 36, of Lawrence and Juan Rosa Sr., 45, of Lawrence, burglarized banks and businesses in multiple cities and towns throughout the state. They often used their friends or girlfriends as lookouts during these burglaries.
The scheme for the break-ins typically involved Caraballo and his associates stealing a vehicle, forcing their way through the backdoor of the ATM kiosk, and then disabling their alarm systems.
They broke into ATM vaults several ways, including the use of a cutting torch and the attempted use of a circular power saw.
Stolen vehicles were used to transport those committing the break-ins, the tools they used in the break-ins, and the money stolen from the ATMs.
Among the 16 defendants:
* Caraballo pleaded guilty to 11 counts of breaking and entering night; five counts of breaking and entering into a vault; 12 counts of receiving a stolen motor vehicle; 10 counts of possession of burglary tools; 10 counts of malicious destruction of property; 7 counts of larceny over $250; 5 counts of attempted larceny and 14 counts of conspiracy. Caraballo was sentenced to 16 years and one day in prison, followed by 10 years of probation. He must also pay restitution, though the amount will be determined later.
* Feliciano Colon pleaded guilty to two counts of receiving a stolen motor vehicle and a single count of conspiracy. He was sentenced to 2 years to 2 years and one day in prison.
* Michael Vasquez pleaded guilty to two counts of receiving a stolen motor vehicle and a single count of conspiracy. He was sentenced to 6 to 7 years in prison.
* Wilson Martinez Jr., 35, of Pepperell, pleaded guilty last October in Essex Superior Court to receiving a stolen motor vehicle (two counts) and conspiracy. He was sentenced to two years in state prison.
* Francisco Ortiz, 39, of Dracut, was sentenced to 78 days in jail, deemed served followed by three years probation. Ortiz pleaded guilty to breaking and entering in the nighttime (three counts), larceny/receiving a stolen motor vehicle (four counts), possession of burglarious tools (four counts), malicious destruction of property (three counts), attempted larceny (three counts) and four counts of conspiracy.
* Luz Denise Lewis, 29, of Lowell, was sentenced in Norfolk Superior Court to 2 1/2 years in jail, suspended while she is on probation for five years. Lewis pleaded guilty to breaking and entering in the nighttime (two counts), breaking and entering into a vault, receiving a stolen motor vehicle (two counts), possession of burglarious tools (two counts), attempted larceny (two counts) and two counts of conspiracy.
* George Velasquez pleaded guilty to 6 counts of breaking and entering night; 2 counts of breaking and entering into a vault; 4 counts of receiving a stolen motor vehicle; 3 counts of possession of burglary tools; 5 counts of malicious destruction of property; 4 counts of larceny over $250 and 6 counts of conspiracy. Velasquez was sentenced to 7 to 8 years in prison, followed by 10 years of probation. He must pay $132,162 in restitution.
* Juan Rosa pleaded guilty to 3 counts of breaking and entering night; 2 counts of breaking and entering into a vault; 2 counts of possession of burglary tools; 2 counts of malicious destruction of property; 2 counts of larceny over $250; 3 counts of conspiracy and 1 count of attempted larceny. Rosa was sentenced to 5 to 6 years in prison, followed by 5 years of probation. He must pay $48,017 in restitution.
Others who pleaded guilty to charges are: Vilma Torres, 38, of Lawrence; Angel Rivera, 35, of Methuen; Brett Ferraro, 25, of Lawrence; James J. McNeil, 45, of Haverhill; Jose Torres, 35, formerly of Lawrence, currently of Duncanville, Texas; Wilson Martinez, 44, of Lawrence; Kimberly Rosado, 34, of Haverhill; and Yessenia Silva, 31, of Lawrence.