Twenty-first century media played a central role in getting a man into custody for questioning about his role in the desecration of a Jewish religious custom that goes back centuries.
Ruben Ubiles, 35, is now in police custody as a result of some cyber detective work, the wide presence of surveillance cameras and Ubiles’s own, active involvement in social media.
Ubiles is suspected in the torching of a dozen mezuzahs in a public housing complex in the southern end of Williamsburg on Monday and Tuesday. Mezuzahs, or mezuzot, as they’re called in Yiddish or Hebrew, are small, decorative containers, hung in doorways, that hold inside each one written passages of scripture reminding residents of each home where a mezuzah is displayed of the presence of God, and of the resident’s commitment to Judaism.
“I’m sorry to cry about it in front of the camera,” a Williamsburg resident told PIX11 News as she was overcome with emotion upon hearing about the desecration. “But I can’t talk about it. It’s disgusting.”
Ubiles is suspected of arson and possible hate crimes. Detectives apparently used facial recognition software to track him down at his girlfriend’s apartment in Bedford-Stuyvesant Wednesday. Doing so, however, may very well have been helped by Ubiles himself. He wrote on his Facebook page about the crimes he was accused of. However, his attempts at using social media to try and clear his name may have sullied it instead.
“Not wasting my time attempting to destroy what they claim I have torched,” Ubiles posted on his Facebook page Wednesday morning. “I’m known for fighting, not arson.”
A further look at his posts shows that he doesn’t help himself any further. “When Jews burn wood and garbage on ebery(sic) corner,” Ubiles wrote in one of his many poorly spelled defenses, “it’s ok to pollute the surroundings.”
Another post reads, in part, “I don’t hate Jews. I’ve worked woth them for years, so why create an unneccessary problem for me when I’m on the verge of finally grow as a person?”
He may have been referring there to attempts he’s made to move past a lengthy criminal record and drug abuse, according to police sources. However, not everybody is buying that Ubiles has improved.
“You don’t judge a book by its cover ’til you study its contents, and with 37 arrests from 1997 to the present, he had a hell of a contents,” said Wally Zeins, a retired 30-year veteran NYPD detective and consultant to PIX11 News.
Zeins pointed out the long list of felonies on Ubiles’s rapsheet, including robbery, burglary, drug possession and sales, and assault. However, in the case of the bias crime burnings, Ubiles maintains his innocence, even though a person bearing his likeness was captured on surveillance video near the scene of the arsons, even though Ubiles doesn’t live near there.
His very specific defensive statements on Facebook also pointed investigators toward him, rather than the other way around, as Ubiles seemed to have intended. “Sounds like he really wants to end this, and he’s in the right place right now,” said Detective Zeins as he pointed to the 81st Police Precinct on Ralph Avenue in Bed-Stuy, where Ubiles was detained for questioning all of Wednesday afternoon and into the evening.
He has yet to be charged with a crime by detectives, but Ubiles could very well be placed under arrest and sent before a judge for a first criminal appearance in this case on Thursday.