Queens Man Charged with Attempting to Rob and Extort a Bedford Family
|U.S. Attorney’s Office September 13, 2012|
Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York; Mary Galligan, the Acting Assistant Director in Charge of the New York Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”); Janet DiFiore, the Westchester County District Attorney; and William Hayes, the Chief of Police for the Town of Bedford Police Department, announced charges today against BARTEK ZAJKOWSKI for, among other things, the attempted extortion of a family by whom he was previously employed and attempted robbery of them in their home in Bedford, New York. The defendant appeared earlier today in White Plains federal court before Magistrate Judge George A. Yanthis and was ordered detained without bail.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara stated: “One can only imagine the utter terror felt by the victims of this alleged home invasion, robbery, and extortion scheme. Thanks to the cooperative efforts of law enforcement at every level, Bartek Zajkowski will be held to account for allegedly threatening the security of this couple and their children, destroying their property, and violating the sanctity of their home.”
FBI Acting Assistant Director in Charge Mary Galligan stated: “The allegations in the complaint paint a grim and terrifying picture of violence and explicit threats to harm the victims’ children. In his evident greed, it is alleged that the defendant tormented his victims physically and emotionally. No civil society can tolerate this kind of assault on safety and security in one’s own home.”
Westchester County District Attorney Janet DiFiore stated: “Cooperation, coordination, and collaboration between local and federal law enforcement agencies was instrumental in the investigation and apprehension of this defendant. In the 21st century, teamwork has helped to transcend jurisdictional boundaries that no longer impede investigations, thereby leaving defendants, as in this case, few places to hide.”
Bedford Police Chief William Hayes stated: “The arrest of Bartek Zajkowski could not have been accomplished without the close cooperation of our law enforcement partners at the federal, state, county, and local levels. This was truly a team effort from the beginning. I would like to extend my thanks to the many agencies that assisted in this investigation for recognizing that this was a dangerous individual that needed to be apprehended before he committed additional violent crimes.”
The following allegations are based on the complaint filed in White Plains federal court:
ZAJKOWSKI, a Polish national, had previously worked for a contractor in 2010 at the victims’ residence in Bedford Hills, New York.
On the evening of May 5, 2012, ZAJKOWSKI, dressed in black and armed with a gun, approached the victims’ house. He encountered Victim-1 (“the Husband”), bound him with duct tape and plastic ties, and demanded to know where money and valuables were located in the house. The Husband told ZAJKOWSKI that he had expensive paintings and gold and silver items in the residence. ZAJKOWSKI then entered the house, encountered and struggled with Victim-2 (“the Wife”), ultimately shooting her in the stomach with a BB gun. ZAJKOWSKI bound Victim-2 with duct tape and plastic ties, and asked her to direct him to the expensive paintings. After ZAJKOWSKI left the Wife to look for the paintings, she was able to free herself and trigger the house’s alarm. ZAJKOWSKI escaped with no property other than the Husband’s wallet.
Two days later, in the early morning hours of May 7, 2012, a barn located on the victims’ property was destroyed by a fire that was immediately suspected to be arson. One week later, on May 14, 2012 and May 17, 2012, the victims received two extortion letters from an individual later determined to be ZAJKOWSKI. The letters demanded that the victims pay ZAJKOWSKI $3 million ($1 million for each of their three children) to ensure their family’s safety. In the letters, ZAJKOWSKI also discussed his struggle with the Wife, claimed responsibility for the barn fire, detailed what he had learned about the family through his surveillance of their home, and threatened harm to the victims’ children. ZAJKOWSKI also demanded that the victims deposit the money into a bank account in the Netherlands—a bank account that law enforcement officials later determined to be held by ZAJKOWSKI’s mother’s partner.
On June 1, 2012, the FBI and other law enforcement agents arrested ZAJKOWSKI pursuant to an arrest warrant stemming from a September 2011 home invasion in Ridgefield, Connecticut. He was transferred from Connecticut state prison, where he was being held on charges related to the Ridgefield home invasion, and arrived in the Southern District of New York today.
* * *
ZAJKOWSKI, 22, of Queens, New York, was charged with one count of attempted robbery, one count of attempted extortion, and one count of mailing threatening communications. Each count carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
Mr. Bharara praised the outstanding investigative work of the FBI’s Westchester County Violent Crimes Task Force, the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office, the Bedford Police Department, the New York State Police, the Westchester County Police Department and the United States Marshals Service, NY/NJ Regional Fugitive Task Force. Mr. Bharara added that the investigation is continuing.
The case is being handled by the Office’s White Plains Division. Assistant United States Attorney Andrew Bauer is in charge of the prosecution.
The charges contained in the complaint are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.