He Worked for Bronx Tenants, Until His Past Caught Up

The building superintendent’s name was Vincent Bostick, and he was good with his hands, reliable and quick on snowy days to get outside with a shovel.

But he did have one quirk.

“He put all these cameras up,” Michael Garcia, a tenant in the building, on Jerome Avenue in the Bronx, said as he pointed them out in the hall. “The city didn’t put these cameras up. He did. He had TVs in his apartment.”

Mr. Garcia said he had thought Mr. Bostick was being cautious, if a little extreme. But revelations about Mr. Bostick, starting with his name, suggest a different reason for the cameras’ presence: Maybe he was watching for the day when his past would catch up with him.

That past took shape at a house party 26 years ago and about 170 miles away, in Worcester, Mass. On Aug. 26, 1990, Anibal Vargas, 39, one of about 30 people at the party, got into a fight, pulled out a gun and fired it, wounding a rival and accidentally hitting someone else in the leg, the police said.

The victims survived. Mr. Vargas fled.

He bought a new birth certificate and a Social Security card, according to a criminal complaint. Both were in a new name: Vincent Bostick.

He came to New York City and got an apartment on Jerome Avenue under the name Bostick. The building, for low-income tenants, is owned by the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development. The man who introduced himself as Vincent lived on the second floor.

Neighbors got together and formed a tenants’ association, said Joyce Simpkins, 69, who lives in the building. “He became the super,” she said on Thursday. “He wanted to be an officer or vice president until he found out we paid the super.”

Mr. Vargas’s true identity went unnoticed on several occasions. He was arrested in the Bronx in 1994 on a charge of possessing a weapon, in 1998 accused of selling drugs to an undercover police officer and in 2000 on a drug-possession charge, the police said. All three times, he was identified as Vincent Bostick.

In 2001, he got a job at Janovic Pro Center, a paint company, in Queens. He provided a Social Security card and a driver’s license, a payroll officer there later told the police.

Back at home, he continued working for the tenants. “He was a very good handyman,” Ms. Simpkins said. “He could fix a leak or put a pipe in.” He kept quiet about his personal life.

Mr. Garcia considered him a friend.

“He’s a cool guy,” he said. “He stays out of trouble, man. He helped me a lot.” The two ate lunch together from time to time. “He doesn’t get visitors, no wife, no nothing. He said he had been in trouble in the past and he didn’t like what the past did to him.”

The super put in the cameras and watched the feeds. “He’s a very nervous person,” Mr. Garcia said. “Those screens are always on.”

In 2006, the police arrested Mr. Vargas and charged him with identity theft. Another man named Vincent Bostick who lived in South Carolina had the same Social Security number that Mr. Vargas had been using. That Mr. Bostick had received reports about wages he supposedly earned in Queens, a place he had never worked, the police said.

Mr. Vargas lost his job at the paint company. He confessed, according to the complaint, and told the police: “I bought a Social Security card and birth certificate in the name of Vincent Bostick from a Spanish guy in Massachusetts for $500. I was in jail, and it’s tough getting a job with a record in my true name.”

He pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and was sentenced to 30 days in jail or a $100 fine. But even having learned his real name, officers did not discover that he was wanted in Massachusetts in the shooting 16 years earlier, the Queens district attorney’s office said last week.

About two years later, Worcester authorities entered a warrant for Mr. Vargas into a national database. The warrant did not surface when he was arrested yet again, in 2011, for a minor offense.

Back at the apartment building, word of his real name surfaced and was met with indifference. “We call him Vincent,” Ms. Simpkins said. “That’s the name he goes by.” Why? That was his business, she said. “I had heard child support or something.”

More time passed. Then two weeks ago, on May 26, an officer in the Bleecker Street subway station in Manhattan saw a man “manipulating the turnstile” to get in without paying, and arrested him, the police said. It was Mr. Vargas, now 65 and carrying a counterfeit driver’s license. This time, entering his name in the system raised an alert that he was wanted in Massachusetts.

On Thursday, Mr. Vargas declined to speak to a reporter at the jail ward at Bellevue Hospital Center. Prosecutors in Massachusetts said he was fighting extradition.

No one is watching the camera feeds at his home now. His neighbors never thought there was much to see, but it was nice knowing the cameras were there.

“He made me feel safe,” Mr. Garcia said.


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