Flags and ceramic poppies on display at the World War I monument in Riverhead in 2022. File photo: Denise Civiletti

A man was arrested in connection with a string of thefts of American flags that occurred in Riverhead this week, police announced tonight.

Nelson Priester, 37, undomiciled, was charged with two counts of grand larceny in the fourth degree, one count of petit larceny, and one count of criminal possession of stolen property in the fifth degree in connection with the incidents, police said in a press release.

American flags were reported stolen this week from multiple locations, including Laundry Palace, Riverhead Auto Mall, Riverhead Municipal Garage, Riverhead Beverage, and Eagle Chevrolet, all located on Route 58, as well as the Suffolk County Historical Society on West Main Street.

Police apprehended Priester after a Laundry Palace employee contacted police Thursday morning to report that a man had cut the ropes on the flagpole outside the business and removed the flags before leaving on foot.

After an investigation, police located Priester in the area and found him to be in possession of several hooks that had been affixed to the flags and the flagpole, according to the press release.

A Riverhead K9 unit was able to locate a number of the missing flags following a track from the Laundry Palace.

Priester was released on an appearance ticket and is set to appear in court at a future date.
Anyone with information regarding this incident is asked to contact the Riverhead Police at 631-727-4500.

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Katie, winner of the 2016 James Murphy Cub Reporter of the Year award from the L.I. Press Club, is a co-publisher of RiverheadLOCAL. A Riverhead native, she is a 2014 graduate of Stony Brook University. Email Katie