Police are crediting the use of social media and assistance from the public with helping to quickly identify and apprehend three suspects in the theft of thousands of dollars worth of sunglasses from OPTX Rhode Island late last month.
“It’s just another example of what a great tool that Facebook page is,” said Maj. Frank Levesque, commander of the Johnston Police Department’s Investigative Division. “Within two hours, we had the identities of all three. It was remarkable.”
Robert A. Ayala, 37, of 231 Orms St. in Providence; Jonathan R. Ilarraza, 24, of 20 Sweet Lane in North Kingstown; and Kate Poniatowski, 20 of 4 Foxtrot Drive in Charlestown, are each charged with felony counts of larceny over $1,500 and conspiracy in connection with the July 29 incident. Ilarraza is additionally charged with misdemeanor counts of obstructing an officer in the line of duty and resisting arrest.
According to his narrative report, Patrolman Andrew Broccoli responded to the 1277 Hartford Ave. business shortly after 3 p.m. on July 29 after a call about the theft.
The manager told Broccoli three persons – two male and one female – had entered the store at approximately 1:30 p.m. that day, and left the business just more than 10 minutes later, departing in a black SUB. One of the men was holding a child during the incident.
The manager is said to have then discovered that numerous sunglasses were missing, including five pairs of Versace sunglasses valued at $1,200, three pairs of Tom Ford sunglasses valued at $1,200, and two pairs of Tiffany sunglasses valued at $400.
Images of the suspects were recovered from the store’s video surveillance system, and were uploaded to the department’s Facebook page by BCI Detective Mark Bairos.
Detective James Brady in his narrative reports that shortly thereafter, police received information identifying one of the suspects as Ayala, who is also known to law enforcement as “The Ray Ban Bandit.” Several callers are said to have subsequently identified Ilarraza and Poniatowski.
Brady’s report indicates Poniatowski voluntarily came to police headquarters for questioning on July 30, at which time she is said to have acknowledged being involved in the OPTX incident. In the report, Ilarraza is identified as her boyfriend, and the child as her son. Poniatowski is said to have told police a drug debt motivated the theft.
Police found Ayala and Ilarraza were wanted on outstanding warrants. Ilarraza was taken into custody July 30 after a vehicle stop and brief foot pursuit on Hartford Avenue, while Alaya was arrested without incident on Aug. 4 at a Cherry Hill Road address.
Levesque praised the work of Brady, Bairos, Detective Christopher Decesare, and other personnel on the case, and thanked those who helped quickly identify the suspects.
A message on the department’s Facebook page also thanks members of the community for the “outpouring of support.”
Levesque spoke of presence of the child during the incident, calling it a “terrible tactic” on the part of the suspects “to use the kid as a decoy.”
He also said only one pair of the stolen sunglasses – a Tom Ford pair, valued at $400 – had been recovered, at the time of Ayala’s arrest.