Police: Man arrested for stealing American flags from 6 Riverhead businesses

Nelson Priester is being charged with two counts of grand larceny.

Krista McNally

Jun 2, 2023, 10:34 PM

Updated 380 days ago

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Police say they have made an arrest in the thefts of American flags from Riverhead businesses.
Business owners for Riverhead Auto Mall, Riverhead Municipal Garage, Riverhead Beverage, Eagle Chevrolet, the Suffolk Historical Society and the Laundry Palace all reported their flags stolen in the last couple of weeks.
"It is not easy to take that down," says Bob Bellucci, a sales manager at Eagle Chevrolet. "You have to cut the rope down. I don't know why they would do it, but I'm a little annoyed."
Police say an employee from the Laundry Palace spotted a man cutting the rope on a flagpole and then taking the American flag. That employee then called 911.
Police say they arrested 37-year-old Nelson Priester in connection to the thefts. They say Priester had several of the hooks that were affixed to the flags and flag poles on him at the time of the arrest.
The entire masthead flagpole at the Suffolk Historical Society had been stripped of all its flags - an American flag along with eight other military flags. Executive director Victoria Berger says to fix the damage and replace the flags will cost thousands.
"It is kind of a sacred ground, so this is really disturbing that this has been vandalized," Berger says.
Priester is being charged with two counts of grand larceny, among other charges.
A motive is not yet clear.
Anyone with additional information is asked to call Riverhead police at 631-727-4500.


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