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Two plead guilty in 'Coffee Break' burglaries

Two Atlantic County men pleaded guilty yesterday in Superior Court to charges connected to a burglary ring that targeted nearly 100 small businesses - mostly Dunkin' Donuts shops - across New Jersey and Southeastern Pennsylvania.

Arthur Reynolds, 45, of Atlantic City, and Joseph Thomas Jr., 45, of Egg Harbor City, were indicted in May after a nine-month investigation police dubbed "Operation Coffee Break." Six other people, all Atlantic County residents, have entered guilty pleas in the case.

Reynolds and Thomas each pleaded guilty yesterday to three counts of burglary before Superior Court Judge Michael R. Connor. They could face sentences of up to 10 years in state prison without the possibility of parole for five years.

Investigators said the ring's members used rental vehicles to travel to burglary sites, where they would enter the businesses after hours by prying open locked doors; they would remove money from cash registers by prying them open with a crowbar. Surveillance videos in some of the businesses also show the burglars, dressed in dark clothing, removing safes and other business equipment.

- Jacqueline L. Urgo