A convicted burglar who describes himself as a certified locksmith has been arrested by Baltimore County police on all-too-familiar charges -- just a month after he was freed in Florida as a suspect in more than 1,000 burglaries.
Richard David Makofski, 36, was arrested Sept. 20 after county police confronted him near the scene of a break-in near Pikesville in possession of $600 in Canadian currency and some lock-picking tools, said Sgt. Stephen R. Doarnberger, a police spokesman.
Makofski, considered to be such a pro as a burglar by the Howard County police that they once asked him to make a videotape on the subject, was being held without bail in the Baltimore County Detention Center, charged with three of the more than 100 burglaries that the police have linked to a theft ring. He gave police a family address in the 9400 block of Penfield Road in Columbia.
In 1984, Howard County police arrested Makofski and charged him in connection with 63 burglaries there.
He pleaded guilty to three counts of burglary, was sentenced to three years in jail and agreed to make the videotape for the police, sharing his expertise in crime.
Makofski was interviewed on the tape about how he committed the burglaries and what he looked for to avoid detection, Sgt. Gary L. Gardner, a Howard County police spokesman, said yesterday.
The tape was intended for use in police training, but Sergeant Gardner said it has not been used for several years.
In November 1989, Makofski was again arrested by Howard County police, this time in connection with the string of burglaries in Florida. At the time police also seized 12 1/2 pounds of gold ingots valued at $78,000. He was also found with lock-picking tools and surveillance equipment, the police said.
He was extradited to Florida, where authorities in Palm Beach alleged he was the ringleader of a professional burglary operation responsible for 1,000 burglaries in the southern section of the state. The Florida police alleged that he had tutored people -- including a father-son team -- on the art of "lock-pick burglary" and had melted down the stolen silver and gold.
Detectives in the Palm Beach sheriff's office said they had obtained information from reliable informants linking him to the burglaries.
But last month, Ellen Roberts, a Palm Beach prosecutor, decided to dismiss the charges against Makofski.
The reason, she said, was that "I can't prove the ingots are made of stolen, melted-down jewelry."
Ms. Roberts said that the lock-picking tools he had carried could be described as "dental equipment," and that it would be "a waste of taxpayers' money to bring this to trial." The prosecutor noted that the defendant "won't profit" in being released because he had agreed to surrender the gold ingots.
It was in March 1989, about eight months before Makofski's arrest on the Florida charges, that Baltimore County police said they began to have a problem with break-ins in the western and central sections of the county.
In the vast majority of the cases detectives noted a similar pattern: No force was used; most occurred weekdays between noon and 4 p.m.; there was seldom ransacking; and only jewelry, cash and small items such as cameras were taken.
Most of the break-ins occurred in apartment complexes and condominiums -- usually on the upper floors of the buildings.
On Aug. 24, two men were spotted breaking into a residence at the Mays Chapel Village Apartments in Cockeysville, where 20 other burglaries had been reported, Sergeant Doarnberger said.
Using the license number of a car seen leaving the apartment complex, detectives began focusing their attention on Makofski.
On Sept. 20, police said that they followed a man from a house in the 2100 block of Wilkens Avenue and watched as he broke into an apartment at the Annen Woods Apartments near Pikesville.
Sergeant Doarnberger said Makofski was taken into custody without incident as he left the apartment carrying the lock-picking tools and foreign currency.
Since that time, the police obtained search warrants for three dwellings in which they believe Makofski may have been living -- two in Columbia and one in Southwest Baltimore. They also obtained warrants for a car and van in which he allegedly had been seen during two of the burglaries.
Jewelry, cameras, two police scanners and jewelry scales were part of the items seized, police said.