BELLEFONTE — The lead investigator in the case against three men charged in a spree of burglaries and robberies called its conclusion “a relief” Friday when a jury found them guilty on most charges.
“It was a lot of work by three law enforcement agencies that led to what was obviously a successful conclusion,” said State College police Detective Ralph Ralston, who testified throughout the weeklong trial.
Maksim Illarionov, 23, Dmitriy Litvinov, 25 and Anatoliy Veretnov, 28, were on trial for the second time related to the crime spree. The judge declared a mistrial in 2011 when co-defendant Alexei Semionov pleaded guilty during the trial. He was sentenced to 36 years in state prison.
“We’re extremely pleased,” said Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller. “It was an extremely important case. Any time justice is delayed, it takes a big toll on the victims.”
Parks Miller said it was difficult for those victims to come back for a second trial and to relive those memories, but said the verdict may bring them closure.
Two of the three defense attorneys said they would consider filing appeals.
Illarionov, called the ringleader by prosecutors, was found guilty on 53 counts, including robbery, burglary and criminal conspiracy charges.
He was found not guilty on five counts, including burglary, criminal trespass and theft by unlawful taking in the Penns Mobil service station robbery, and criminal conspiracy to inflict serious bodily injury in the attempted, but failed, robbery of Uncle Chen’s Chinese restaurant in State College.
Earlier in the week, police informant Lindsay Coatman testified that he drove the three men to Uncle Chen’s in March 2010 and that they intended to rob the business, but they arrived after the business had closed.
Illarionov and Litvinov both were found guilty of some charges related to the Uncle Chen’s attempted robbery, and others. They were found guilty of conspiring to rob State Amusement in State College, and Uncle Chen’s. Both also were found not guilty on some of the charges related to the Chinese restaurant robbery attempt.
Litvinov, called “the muscle” by prosecutors, was found guilty of 53 counts, and not guilty of two. He and Veretnov were found guilty of robbing The Bar in Boalsburg and the Uni-Mart at South Atherton Street and Waupelani Drive, as well as kidnapping a man.
Veretnov, who was said to have joined the group near the end of the spree, was found guilty of all 34 counts against him.
All three men were found guilty of robbing the Dollar General in Centre Hall.
As the verdicts were read, beefed up security was on hand inside and outside the courtroom in the Centre County Courthouse Annex. More than a half-dozen sheriff’s deputies stood inside while, outside, police armed with rifles and wearing body armor escorted the men back to the Centre County Correctional Facility.
Veretnov’s attorney, Ron McGlaughlin, said he would consider filing an appeal. He contends that it was not fair to try his client with the other two men.
Dan Nelson, who represented Illarionov, said he would consult with his client and look at options for appeal. When asked to comment further, he praised the work of the jury.
Litvinov’s family, present throughout the trial, declined to be interviewed after walking from the courtroom. A family member hung her head as the verdict was read.
Earlier today, Parks Miller laid out the hierarchy in the “squad” on trial for their alleged roles in a sometimes-violent burglary and robbery spree.
Parks Miller, in her closing arguments this morning, called Illarionov “the boss,” and said his own words show it.
“Everybody has to play his own part, and bring equal shares to the table,” Illarionov allegedly told a confidential informant, who was carrying a recording device.
“I can go fully with my work like I usually do, and support the whole squad, but I don’t want to do that,” he allegedly says on the recording. “They have to bring something to the table if they want to eat.”
Parks Miller said the hierarchy had already formed. She alleged Litvinov and Veretnov rounded out the crew.
The three men are charged with having varying roles in a crime spree that started with burglaries and escalated to armed robberies of businesses and people.
Closing arguments wrapped up in the trial this morning.
Defense attorneys for all three men, in their separate closing arguments, trashed the credibility of various inmates who said they heard jailhouse confessions from the men, and of a confidential informant who first brought police to Illarionov.
The attorneys also pointed to a lack of direct evidence in the case.
Matt Carroll can be reached at 231-4631. Follow him on Twitter @Carrollreporter