A federal grand jury here charged a New Jersey man yesterday with being the ringleader of a gang of burglars that ripped off more than 150 businesses in more than a dozen states along the East Coast.

Authorities said Scott Allen Hornick's crime spree began in August 2001 and continued until July 2007.

The indictment alleged that 37-year-old Hornick, who has been in custody for several years, and three co-defendants wore masks and gloves and used burglary tools to forcibly enter businesses after hours, and fill bags with cameras, watches, medications, perfumes and guitars.

The charging papers said gang members carried out the burglaries quickly, typically leaving the premises within a minute of arrival.

Then, Hornick and his gang loaded their bags of stolen goods into rented or stolen minivans or SUVs, authorities said, and transported the loot to Montgomery County, where it was handed over to their fence, Vallin Malcolm.

Malcolm, who pleaded guilty in March to conspiracy and two counts of interstate transportation of stolen property, kept the stolen goods in a storage shed in Collegeville, the indictment said.

A second defendant in the case, Sasha Ingardi, pleaded guilty to similar charges last November and is awaiting sentencing.

Two other defendants, Jerry Todisco and Anthony Todisco, were charged in federal district court in Maryland in 2006. Both men later pleaded guilty to interstate transportation of stolen property and were sentenced to three years in federal prison, according to court documents.

Hornick was a fugitive during the alleged conspiracy, having escaped in 2001 from the Warren County Correctional Facility in northern New Jersey, where he was serving time for a theft-related charge.

The indictment noted that Hornick had been featured on "America's Most Wanted."

Hornick used a number of aliases - including that of co-defendant Jerry Todisco - to conceal his identity and evade capture, the indictment said.

After Todisco joined the conspiracy in October 2002, Hornick stopped using his name as an alias, the indictment said.

If convicted of all charges, Hornick could potentially face 30 years to life in federal prison under advisory sentencing guidelines. *