The great-great-granddaughter of Elbert Hubbard is accused of stealing family heirlooms, including guns, passed down from the Roycroft founder and selling them to support her heroin addiction, police say.
And one of those stolen guns was used in the shooting of a man outside Old Pink bar on Allen Street last week, police said.
Megan Hubbard-Riley, 22, appeared Tuesday in Buffalo City Court on a weapons charge and waived her right to a felony hearing. She was then returned to the Erie County Correctional Facility in Alden, where her boyfriend, John Lawandus, 35, is also detained on the same charges.
Police said the two had been living at her mother’s East Aurora home, from which they stole furniture and other valuables made or once owned by Elbert Hubbard. These items included chests, chairs, a ring, candlesticks, a coffee pot, original Roycroft literature, and some 30 books, many of them autographed by Hubbard.
Also among the stolen items was a collection of firearms, both antique and modern, according to East Aurora Detectives Patrick Welch and Rick Daminski.
After the shooting outside the Old Pink last Thursday, police confiscated the handgun used in the shooting and through its serial number matched it to one of the pistols stolen from the East Aurora home of Mary Hubbard, the mother of Hubbard-Riley.
“The public is probably not aware that the majority of the guns coming into the city are from somewhere in New York State and with many from the first-ring suburbs,” Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda said, adding that the thefts are part of an even bigger concern – the heroin epidemic.
The overall value of the items stolen from Mary Hubbard was estimated at more than $50,000, but the items were sold for far less at three area pawn shops and to street criminals, police said.
“The thieving started slowly in November 2013 but by May 10, the mother did an inventory and realized what she was missing,” said Welch of the East Aurora police. “The investigation led in the direction of the daughter and boyfriend, who shared a drug habit. They stole in order to feed a habit, taking from the mother property that was dispersed throughout the area at local pawn shops.”
Daminski went to the pawn shops in West Seneca, Buffalo and Lackawanna, and was able to recover almost all of the valuables, except for a ring. He and Welch also contacted the Buffalo Police Department’s Intelligence Unit and provided them with a list of serial numbers for 13 handguns and one shotgun.
Working with the East Aurora detectives, the Intelligence Unit determined that Lawandus acted as a “broker” in negotiating deals to sell the guns to two Buffalo residents, Daniel Quinn, 19, and Scott Weed, 27, both former Southtowns residents, who in turn sold the guns on the streets.
“The gun used in the Allen Street shooting is the first known incident tied back to the stolen guns,” Derenda said.
Members of the Intelligence Unit have succeeded in recovering several of the other guns, according to Detective Earl Perrin, a unit member.
When East Aurora learned of the Buffalo shooting last week and of the gun serial number match, Welch said it confirmed his worst fears that the weapons were being used in the city to commit crimes.
“The guns were sold illegally, obviously to support their habit,” he said.
What made the story all the more tragic was that an important part of the region’s history had been sullied, the detective added.
“It is sad to see something so important to the Hubbard family and people invested in the Roycroft in general lose such valuable items because of a drug habit,” Welch said.
Mary Hubbard’s victimization by her daughter is not uncommon, according to police and public health officials, who say there is a predictable pattern to the opiate epidemic.
People get hooked on prescription painkillers, and when the price for the pills is too expensive, they steal. When the medications, now more closely regulated, are no longer easily available, they turn to cheaper heroin and drug dealers.
“It’s happening under the noses in many households. It’s more often occurring among family members where drug use would never be suspected,” Erie County Health Commissioner Gale R. Burstein said. “People stereotype our drug problem where they think that it is always a problem in impoverished urban areas, but it is truly an epidemic that affects the entire county. We see it in all races and ethnicities, in all socioeconomic levels and in all ZIP codes.”
“The heroin epidemic is leading to an increase in larcenies and burglaries throughout the area,” he said.
Because nothing is off limits to drug addicts, police urged gun owners to store their weapons in safe and secure locations.
Mary Hubbard, according to police, was described as a gun enthusiast who participates in sport shooting.
Hubbard-Riley, Lawandus, Weed and Quinn have been charged by city detectives with multiple felony charges of criminal possession of a weapon and criminal sale of a weapon. Hubbard-Riley and Lawandus also have been charged with felony second-degree grand larceny by the East Aurora detectives.
Intelligence Unit Detective Sgt. David Lillis and Detectives Craig Leone and Jason Mayhook with Perrin are continuing their investigation to try and recover the other stolen guns.
The Allen Street shooting victim, Edwin Andino, 30, of Depew, was listed in serious condition late Tuesday in Erie County Medical Center. Andino was employed at the bar, although he was an unintended victim when a man across the street fired at someone talking to his girlfriend.