Detective Travis Rapp knew something was wrong when he looked out the
window of the restaurant where he was having lunch.
Two men were wheeling their friend down a Manhattan street in a red
office chair, and a crowd of suspicious onlookers began to congregate
around the lifeless figure.
Initially, Rapp assumed "it was a mannequin or a dummy," he said. "I
thought it was a joke, honestly."
But upon closer examination, it dawned on him that the body _ rigid,
white and with glazed-over eyes _ was real. As a 15-year veteran with
the New York Police Department, he had seen a few dead folks in his
time. "But never anything like this," he recalled.
As it turns out, his instincts were right. The man was dead, and two of
his friends had hauled his corpse to a store to cash his $355 Social
Security check, police said. They were arrested before they could get
The bedraggled suspects, David J. Dalaia and James O'Hare, were
scheduled to appear in court Wednesday night. Police said the men, both
65, were petty criminals with long histories of heroin addiction and
arrests dating back to the 1960s.
The scene could have been straight out of the movie "Weekend at
The trouble began Tuesday when Dalaia and O'Hare tried to cash Virgilio
Cintron's check at a store in Hell's Kitchen on their own, police said.
The man at the counter told them that Cintron had to be present to cash
the check, so they went back to his apartment, which one of the suspects
shared with the dead man.
Cintron was apparently undressed when he died, sometime within the
previous 24 hours. Police said Dalaia and O'Hare proceeded to dress him
in a faded T-shirt, pants they could only get up part way, and a pair of
Velcro sneakers. They threw a coat over his waist to conceal what the
pants couldn't cover, police said.
They then put him on the office chair and wheeled the corpse over to the
The men left Cintron's body outside, went inside and tried to cash his
check, authorities said. The store's clerk, who knew Cintron, asked the
men where he was, and O'Hare told the clerk they would go and get him.
At about the same time, Rapp spotted them and jumped up, confronting the
men as they were attempting to haul the body into the store. He said
even after he identified himself as a police officer, O'Hare told him,
"I have to get my friend in here. I have to cash his check."
He ordered the men to back away from the victim. They feigned surprise
when paramedics declared him dead, Rapp said.
"When they said, 'Your friend is dead,' they said, 'Oh my god, he's
The scene played out on a busy Manhattan street as several onlookers
"I saw this guy sitting in this chair with his head back. He looked very
dead," said Victor Rodriguez, 38, who was working at a nearby restaurant
when he saw the commotion outside. "He looked very sick. His eyes were
closed. He wasn't moving."
Little is known about Cintron, 66, who apparently died of natural
causes. An autopsy proved inconclusive, the medical examiner's office
said, and his body hadn't been positively identified as of Wednesday
Relatives told police that he had recently been hospitalized for
Parkinson's disease. Police said his rap sheet was long, with arrests
for burglary, assault and drugs. Locals said that Cintron and O'Hare
often frequented a food pantry down the street.
Peter Sosko, an actor and neighbor of Cintron and O'Hare, said the men
didn't appear well.
"They looked like they were really at the end of their time," he said.
A telephone number listed for Cintron at the apartment he shared with
O'Hare went unanswered. Police said they didn't have an address for
Dalaia or attorney information for him or O'Hare.
Regardless of what happens to the defendants, they can take solace in
the fact that they fooled one onlooker with the dead man disguise.
"He went in regular clothes. I didn't even know he was dead. I thought
he was alive," said Gerit Ahemed, a clerk at a nearby deli.
Copyright 2007 Associated Press.