SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

June 12, 2014

'Desperate' man pleads not guilty to burglary

SWAMPSCOTT — His public defender says Rashid Sparks was homeless and hungry when he committed “crimes of desperation,” breaking into homes and pawning their contents.

But prosecutors and police offered a different take on Sparks, 22, of Lynn, saying that he and a 15-year-old juvenile looted the homes of jewelry, computers, game systems and even $20,000 in Canadian cash, while cruising around Swampscott neighborhoods in an Infiniti SUV.

Sparks pleaded not guilty to a total of 14 counts during his arraignment Wednesday in Salem Superior Court, where Judge Richard Welch III set bail at $5,000.

Welch called the bail an “academic” exercise — since Sparks is currently serving two sentences through next March for larcenies he was on probation for during the Swampscott housebreaks last fall.

Prosecutor Christina Ronan, who had sought $10,000 bail for Sparks while he awaits trial on new burglary, larceny and stolen property charges, said police in Lynn and Swampscott were monitoring pawn shops in Lynn after a series of housebreaks on the North Shore during October and November of last year.

Some of the stolen items turned up in a pawn shop on Market Street in Lynn — where Sparks used his license to get cash for the stolen goods, police said.

The items, including a computer, jewelry, a PlayStation and a Kindle, were subsequently connected to breaks in Swampscott, Lynn and Melrose.

Swampscott police also received a report of two men going back and forth between homes and the Infiniti, posing as newspaper carriers, in the area of Puritan Road on Oct. 24 and 25.

The burglars were knocking on doors, and when someone answered, they would offer to sell the person a newspaper, then move on to the next house. If no one answered, they would break in, police said.

Those breaks, including one at a police officer’s home, netted the burglars a significant amount of property and the Canadian cash, police and prosecutors said. Police, who initially charged Sparks with pawning the stolen items, were able to link him to the burglaries through fingerprints, said the prosecutor.

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