Fifth charge filed against alleged Riverbend burglar

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Michael J. Dardar

A man who has already confessed to four business burglaries has been definitively linked to another, and more charges are still expected, investigators said Wednesday during the weekly meeting of the NOPD Second District’s ranking officers.

Meanwhile, as investigators continue speaking to Dardar, they are becoming more interested in his unusual personality and life story, they said as they reviewed his case Wednesday.

After Michael Dardar confessed last week to breaking into four businesses, detectives are still sorting through the items they recovered from his hideout under a house on South Carrollton, said Sgt. Marc Amos of the NOPD property-crimes division. On Tuesday, they were able to identify an iPod and three rings as stolen from the lost-and-found of an Oak Street bar, leading to a fifth burglary charge, and as many as six more break-ins in the Riverbend area could ultimately be tied to him, Amos said.

Prior to his life on the streets, Dardar was an abstractor, researching property titles for attorneys and real-estate companies, Montalbano said. “When things went south with the economy, his job was liquidated,” and he turned to burglary to support himself, Montalbano said.

Police have also been stricken by his unusual account of his crimes. Investigators believe strongly that he was responsible for the burglary of the Rue de la Course coffeehouse, but when they asked him about it, the candor with which he admitted to other break-ins gave way to an oddly emotional denial, Amos said.

“The reason he didn’t admit to it, I think, is he frequented the place and they were polite to him, and he felt bad about it,” Amos said. “This guy was far from the average burglar. If you sit and talk to him, you find yourself liking him.”

In one burglary, Dardar stole a safe, and he told investigators he found a rolling chair to help him move it through the streets back to his hideout, periodically stopping to rest in the shadows — or hide from the two police cruisers on patrol that passed him on his way that night, Montalbano noted with chagrin. Dardar told police that when he got the safe back to the house where he was hiding, it took him four hours to crack it open and he was dismayed to find only $600 or so inside.

“He said he was disappointed, all the time and effort he put into it,” Montalbano said.

Once the business burglaries in the area solidified into a definite pattern just before Mardi Gras, Second District police poured extensive manpower into finding him. At one point, police headquarters relayed a tip that a man might be living under the building where Dardar was eventually found, but when quality-of-life officers visited the first time, they did not see any evidence of a hideout behind the lattice work around the underside of the house, said the Second District commander, Capt. Darryl Albert.

After his arrest, police asked neighbors if they knew someone was living under the house. One woman said only that she’d smelled something peculiar from time to time, while a man said he’d heard coughing from the area, but neither thought much of it, Montalbano said.

“There were a lot of near misses,” Amos said.

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