Newton man arrested in plaque thefts

Markers stolen in 3 communities

By Christina Pazzanese
Globe Correspondent / April 1, 2010

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A Newton man believed to be responsible for a string of bronze plaques being stolen from parks and buildings in Boston, Belmont, and Newton was arrested Tuesday night.

Vincent P. Cedrone, 52, was arrested by Newton police around 10 p.m. at his home, where officers found seven metal plaques, six belonging to the city of Boston, according to the Middlesex district attorney’s office.

In a statement, District Attorney Gerard T. Leone called the thefts “brazen,’’ saying Cedrone targeted public property in the three communities to sell. He estimated the damages to be in the tens of thousands of dollars.

According to authorities, Cedrone became a suspect after reports that a bronze plaque worth $15,000 had been stolen from a Newton apartment complex March 25.

The following day, Newton recreation officials told police that a bronze plaque from a statue of famed Boston Marathon runner Johnny Kelley was missing.

After that report, a Newton police officer recalled pulling Cedrone over in a car three days earlier, after noticing a large sign sticking out of the vehicle’s trunk. Fearing it would fall, the officer said he stopped Cedrone to ask about the sign. Cedrone was allowed to drive off after telling police he had found it in the middle of the road and was hauling it away in hopes it was worth something.

When police spoke with Cedrone at his home on Saturday, he claimed he had found the sign and sold it to a salvage yard for $50, authorities said.

Belmont police believe Cedrone is the man seen on a surveillance video prying a bronze plaque from the front of the Homer Municipal Building, in Belmont Center on March 21, and driving off in a small white sedan.

Cedrone was arraigned yesterday in Newton District Court. He pleaded not guilty to two counts of receiving stolen property valued at more than $250. He was ordered held on $2,500 cash bail and is due back in court May 10.

He is also suspected in the thefts of four other metal plaques that were pried from a post and rocks near the commuter railroad bridge in the Waverley Square area of Belmont sometime this month, said Belmont police Lieutenant Richard Santangelo.

Santangelo, who estimated the Homer Building plaque’s replacement value is $1,900, said Cedrone probably intended to sell the metal markers to a scrap yard for cash.

“I don’t know what else you could do with them,’’ he said.

The purloined plaques are just the latest in a string of thefts of historic markers in the suburbs.

In late January, Lexington police recovered a bronze plaque that had been removed from a large stone on the Battle Green. The marker memorializes the site of a historic belfry used at the start the American Revolution in April 1775.

Lexington Sergeant Chris Barry said thieves targeting potentially valuable metal items, such as bronze plaques or copper gutters and pipes, have become “a common problem’’ in many communities.

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