EXCLUSIVE: “I don’t think I deserve to never see any of my family again,” a tearful Melvin Collins told a judge in Hackensack yesterday while admitting that he committed a series of burglaries in seven Bergen County towns — three of them after cutting off a parole-monitoring ankle bracelet.
“Everybody is going to be deceased when I get home, everybody’s going to be dead,” Collins told Superior Court Judge Patrick J. Roma. “My family’s going to be gone.
“My two children will be alive,” he said, breaking down in tears, “but everyone else will be gone.”
Under Roma’s sentence, the notorious burglar — who turns 47 in a week and a half — won’t be eligible for parole for at least 10 years, and probably much longer.
Collins has piled up 60 indictable offenses since 1992 — including assaults on corrections officers, high-speed chases and assorted holdups. He’d been paroled after serving seven years of a 31-year term in 2002 when he removed the monitoring bracelet and went to North Carolina, prosecutors said. After two high-speed chases, he was back behind bars.
This past March, a judge in Hackensack sentenced Collins to a dozen years, four of which he was required to serve before parole eligibility.
“There’s not just a risk of committing another offense — it’s a virtual certainty,” the judge, James J. Guida, said at the time.
Collins insisted he’d gone straight for a number of years, had a full-time job, passed all his drug tests — and was even named an entrepreneur of the year by the NAACP, a distinction he said he discovered while reading a newspaper behind bars.
In the fall of 2009, however, “I ran into some trouble and decided to run away from parole and got myself in jail,” he said.
Collins, who blamed a gambling addiction for his troubles, admitted yesterday to two burglary sprees in October 2009 and 2010, when, he said, he broke into several homes in Allendale, Englewood, Maywood, Paramus, Rochelle Park, Teaneck and Tenafly.
During the initial spree, Collins admitted that he cut off the state-issued ankle bracelet that he wore as a condition of parole, they said (He was charged with theft of state property for that).
Assistant Bergen County Prosecutor David Calviello told Roma that five homeowners were victimized under one indictment returned against Collins and five in another. “That’s in addition to the 20 convictions he already has,” Calviello said.
Despite the numbers, Collins’ deal with prosecutors allowed him to plead guilty today to one burglary in Englewood and another in Tenafly.
Collins agreed to a sentence of eight years on the first indictment and four years on the second indictment. He must serve at least half of that combined sentence — six years — before being eligible for parole.
Roma set sentencing for Oct. 25.
STORY / PHOTOS: Mary K. Miraglia, CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter
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