BUFFALO, N.Y.—U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced today that Paul Krieger, Ray Chrostowski, and Nicholas Birdwell, all of Buffalo, NY, were arrested and charged by criminal complaint with breaking into a railcar to commit larceny, and conspiracy to break into a railcar to commit larceny. The charges carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Laura A. Higgins, who is handling the case, stated that according to the complaint, in April 2018, the FBI was alerted to thefts being committed on CSX rail line property from multiple sources. According to CSX officials, the thefts had been taking place in Buffalo, on CSX property, since approximately 2000.
The defendants were believed to be surveying the CSX rail lines from a high ground position in the vicinity of Broadway Street and Bailey Avenue. When a train stopped in the Buffalo railyard to re-crew, the defendants headed to the area, mounted the train, opened a railcar, and removed packages for resale or personal use. On at least 15 separate occasions since May 2018, 2-4 individuals have been observed on video surveillance stealing items from CSX trains in a similar manner.
On June 26, 2018, at approximately 7:21 p.m., defendants Krieger and Chrostowski were observed mounting a train while defendant Birdwell remained on the ground next to train. The locks on a railcar were cut and a large package was downloaded to Birdwell who put the package in nearby bushes. As Krieger and Chrostowski were getting ready to cut the locks on another railcar, Birdwell was taken into custody. Krieger and Chrostowski attempted to flee on foot but were apprehended after a brief foot chase with law enforcement.
Some of the items recovered at the scene included bolt cutters, a portion of the wire seal believed to be from a railcar, a pipe with a sharp edge which could aid in breaking the seals on trains, numerous packages hidden in bushes, believed to be items from thefts on dates prior to June 26, 2018, and the large package that was observed being taken off the train that evening.
During the execution of a search warrant at a residence on June 27, 2018, a number cases of bourbon, believed to have been previously stolen from a railcar, were seized.
The complaint is the result of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge Gary Loeffert; the CSX Police, under the direction of Chief Sean Douris; the West Seneca Police Department, under the direction of Chief Daniel Denz; and the Buffalo Police Department, under the direction of Commissioner Byron Lockwood.
The fact that a defendant has been charged with a crime is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.