For 15 years, authorities were unable to find any of three robbers wearing masks who forced their way into the Mahwah home of a Ramsey pizzeria owner, tied him to a chair and made off with nearly $200,000 in cash – while leaving a gun and costume mask behind.
Thanks to advances in DNA testing, however, Mahwah police have charged a Yonkers man who worked as a superintendent for an apartment building near the victim’s home and business.
Paul Shkreli, 45, was served with the criminal complaint at the Westchester County Jail, where he was being held in connection with an attempted jewelry store robbery in Yorktown last year.
Once that case is resolved, the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office will seek to extradite him to New Jersey, Mahwah Police Chief James N. Batelli said Wednesday.
Shkreli was one of three robbers wearing masks who broke into the victim’s Indian Field Court home through a basement window around 3 a.m. on May 25, 2003, Batelli said.
After tying the homeowner to chair, the robbers demanded to know where his safe was located and where cash was hidden, the chief said.
He gave them $15,000 in cash, but they “demanded more money and threaten him with bodily harm until he divulged where the safe was located,” he said.
They then ransacked the home, found the safe and fled with the cash, leaving behind the costume-styled mask and a .22-caliber handgun.
The victim described his assailants as white, in their late 20s to early 30s, wearing dark hoodies and camouflage paint on their faces.
Two of them also wore the costume masks, he said.
They also spoke with a foreign accent that the victim thought to be Albanian, Batelli noted.
The Bergen County Sheriff's Office Bureau of Criminal Identification collected the evidence and sent the mask that was left behind to the New Jersey State Police Lab for processing.
Detectives pursued several leads and developed various suspects, believing that an organized ring was responsible.
They also investigated two additional home invasions at the same house with a year of the first.
On Monday, a BCI detective contacted Mahwah Detective Sgt. Kevin Hebert with a positive DNA match on the mask that matched Shkreli’s, the chief said.
Shkreli has a history: In 2004, he led New York State troopers and local police on a high-speed chase before crashing the car and bailing. Two accomplices fled, but Shkreli was caught.
Last year, Shkreli was arrested by police in Yorktown who said they caught him trying to break into a local jewelry store through a neighboring barber shop.
Hebert and Detective Eric Larsen formally charged Shkreli with kidnapping, robbery, armed burglary, theft of more than $75,000, possession of a weapon and possession of a weapon for unlawful purposes.
They also are working at tying Shkrell to the other two home invasions and were seeking his accomplices.
Batelli said his detectives “are already working on information and are confident that the others robberies will be solved and the additional suspects will be identified, charged and arrested in the near future.”
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