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Wearing championship hockey ring lands veteran burglar in prison

Danilo Claudio has been breaking into parked cars for years, and stealing purses, credit cards and whatever else he finds in them, according to prosecutors.

But when the West Avenue man was arrested Jan. 24 in connection with two car break-ins, police noticed he was wearing a 2013 American Hockey League championship ring for the Grand Rapids Griffins.

He told police it was his ring and that he was the team goalie.

The officers were skeptical. Claudio was 43 years old.

After checking police reports, the officers learned that the ring had been reported stolen earlier that day from the parked car of Thomas McCollum on Soldiers Place.

McCollum, an Amherst native, was one of the goalies for the Grand Rapids team when it won the Calder Cup in 2013. He also has played goalie for the Detroit Red Wings and had been Detroit’s first-round draft pick in 2008.

Claudio eventually pleaded guilty to fourth-degree criminal possession of stolen property for having the 10-karat white gold ring, which was valued at more than $1,500 and will be returned to McCollum.

Claudio was sentenced this week in Erie County Court to two to four years in prison on the felony charge.

Judge Sheila A. DiTullio ordered the sentence to run concurrently with two one-year jail terms she gave Claudio on his guilty plea to two misdemeanor stolen property charges in connection with car break-ins June 24 and Jan. 2 on Marine Drive.

In both those break-ins, Claudio took credit cards, which he used to buy two big-screen televisions – one for $1,200 and the other for $1,400.

Assistant District Attorney G. Michael Drmacich cited the work of Buffalo Police Detectives Thomas Nunan, John Paradowski and Thomas O’Brien in tracking down Claudio and linking him to the Marine Drive car break-ins.

The detectives obtained security camera video from the store where Claudio used the stolen credit cards to buy the televisions. The video showed him getting into a cab with one of the televisions.

Detectives then located the cab driver and learned the address where he dropped off his fare, leading to Claudio’s arrest Jan. 24.

Drmacich said Claudio was on parole from a prison sentence he received in 2008 for three stolen property convictions and will have to finish that sentence before starting to serve his latest prison term.

The earlier convictions and sentence involved the theft of purses from three parked cars he broke into near Delaware Park and the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens.