WEST WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) – A man whose cousin was charged with selling stolen grave markers at a scrap dealer decided to try to make up for his relative’s actions.
Michael Montanaro told Eyewitness News that he was in disbelief when he learned that his cousin, Robert Haney, was one of two men charged by the Johnston Police Department with trying to sell the items.
According to police, 39 year-old Haney and an accomplice, 32 year-old Michael Gilligan of Providence, sold the stolen bronze markers and vases at a scrap yard. Both were arrested and charged with receiving stolen goods and conspiracy. Both men have lengthy criminal records.
Police said that the items totaled over $22,000 in value and had all been taken from the graves of World War 1, World War 2 and Vietnam War veterans. Neither Haney nor Gilligan were charged with actually stealing the items, although police said it was likely that they had.
Saturday morning, Montanaro returned to St. Joseph cemetery in West Warwick to try to fix what his cousin did.
“After I thought about it for a while, it was like I have to do something for the community, and for the fallen soldiers,” he said.
So he spent the morning placing American flags on the gravestones which were damaged. Some of them showed signs of damage from failed attempts to pry the metal markers off with tools.
“I’m sorry for the family member who actually caused this damage and I’ll do everything in my power to try to make things right,” Montanaro said.
He also plans to raise money to replace all the stolen marker plaques.