76-year-old ex-Rochester burglar allegedly strikes again in Florida

Nearly 50 years ago, Mervin “Bobby” Hadden Jr. was known for his burglary exploits: He cut alarm wires, he broke in from rooftops, he torched his way into safes and he set his sights on high-end targets, like jewelry stores.

A Rochester-area resident, Hadden was in and out of jail and prison. Now 76, he lives in Florida. And he is again calling a jail cell his home.

If allegations are true, Hadden still enjoys stealing some of life’s finer offerings: In December, he was arrested in Martin County, Florida, and accused of stealing expensive liquor from several stores.

“Inside his vehicle detectives found a bottle of 25-year-old Macallian single malt whiskey, worth $2,599.99,” said a news release about his arrest.

Retired State Police Investigator George Thompson spent many hours pursuing Hadden during Hadden’s crime spree in the 1970s and 1980s.

“He’s been getting arrested for over 60 years,” Thompson said. “He doesn’t know how to do anything else.”

Tales of Mervin ‘Bobby’ Hadden’s exploits in Rochester NY

Mervin Hadden Jr.

Mervin Hadden Jr.

In Rochester, there are so many recollections of Hadden’s crimes that it’s hard to separate the legitimate from the apocryphal.

According to retired State Police investigator David Luitweiler, Hadden rarely sought small scores. Instead, Luitweiler said, Hadden’s modus operandi was “sophisticated burglaries.”

Court records, news accounts and conversations with individuals who know Hadden from his Rochester days demonstrate just how active he was in his earlier life as a burglar.

He occasionally used aliases, including one from an infant whose burial site he found in a cemetery. (This trick he apparently picked up from the film “The Day of the Jackal.”) He was considered by area police to be one of the best at breaking into safes, typically using various types of torches.

Malt whiskey allegedly found in car of Mervin Hadden Jr.

Malt whiskey allegedly found in car of Mervin Hadden Jr.

Among his criminal escapades were:

  • One of the earliest Democrat and Chronicle references to Hadden’s crimes is for allegedly trying to pay a diner bill and to make a Woolworth’s purchase in Wayne County in 1968 with counterfeit $20 bills. He was then 21. Among Hadden’s purchases — three cups of coffee and Alberto VO-5 hair spray.

  • Two years later Hadden was arrested by police after his car wouldn’t start near the location of an attempted burglary in Rochester. After helping start the car, police noticed burglary tools inside the vehicle and arrested him.

  • In the early 1980s, Hadden went to prison on weapons charges. While imprisoned, he was accused of earlier burglaries in Scranton, Pennsylvania, in which jewelry and cash were stolen. Hadden was accused of cutting the phone wires into a targeted building.

  • Once, while using a chainsaw to cut into telephone wires in a planned Pennsylvania heist, he accidentally hit some power lines, causing a blackout.

  • In 1992, Hadden, living in Florida, was nabbed on the roof of an Olive Garden restaurant in Sandford Florida. He again was wielding tools for a burglary

  • Free from prison and still living in Florida, Hadden was part of a team that stole nearly $2 million in diamonds, sapphires, rubies and emeralds from a Palm Beach jewelry store. According to the Palm Beach Post, Hadden cut away a section of the store’s rear door “with a torch” and then others snuck in the next day.

Paying a price to the mob in Rochester NY

Hadden was imprisoned for about nine years for the Palm Beach robbery, released in 2008 according to federal Bureau of Prisons records. Since then, he seems to stayed clear of trouble, until the recent arrest.

Hadden operated locally during the prime years of Rochester’s mob. Though he occasionally committed burglaries with mobsters, he wasn’t a player in organized crime circles, according to retired law enforcement officials and others who knew Hadden.

However, he did have one interaction that did not turn out well for him. He’d been told by Rochester’s mob leaders to avoid a safe in a Pittsford restaurant that he was targeting. Nonetheless, the safe was broken into.

Hadden insisted the criminal wasn’t him. Still, he had to pay the mob a cash penalty and physical penalty. He ended up with a broken leg.

Hadden is now in jail in Martin County, Florida, awaiting trial on the stolen liquor charges. His bail is $50,000.

— Gary Craig is a veteran reporter with the Democrat and Chronicle, covering courts and crime and more. You can reach Craig at gcraig@rocheste.gannett.com. He is the author of two books, including “Seven Million: A Cop, a Priest, a Soldier for the IRA, and the Still-Unsolved Rochester Brink’s Heist.

This article originally appeared on Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: Mervin ‘Bobby’ Hadden accused of stealing high-end liquor in Florida

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