By George Capsis
Carol Yost sent an article from the Post about an international jewel thief who lived, until he was arrested on October 24th, in a “$10 million dollar townhouse on West 4th Street.” Wait—West 4th is just up the corner from 69 Charles; so I e-mail our photographer, Joel, to take a picture and he instantly and expectedly emails back with, “what’s the address?” I tell him to check with the NYPD press office.
Then, I get a call from a very agitated woman with a hard New York accent, wanting to know if I am George Capsis of WestView and do I intend to do a story about her husband—whom I immediately assumed was the jewel thief (she had discovered Joel taking shots and demanded answers and an intimidated Joel quickly proffered my name as a shield). She had heard I was “a nice guy,” and she had two kids, and it was not true, and her husband had a lawyer and was going to sue. I explained that we were just a small community paper and the Post had already done the story, and she came back with “not everybody reads the Post.”
Dusty comes in and I begin telling her the story and she jumps. “That’s the hair salon on West 4th, the guy we met after a rafter fell on him. He’s been here (meaning the kitchen of 69 Charles Street—our headquarters).”
OK, it all starts to come together… Dusty and I were walking on West 4th Street one day. She calls across the street to our jewel thief for some inconsequential reason, as Dusty is wont to do, and he springs forward with a soft smile as if he were talking to old friends and we sort-of become instant old friends.
But more coincidence—my acupuncturist and massage-giver Michael Kahn lives right across the street and knows Damir and his wife very well. He told us that Damir had once spent an hour helping him carry a very heavy leather couch down four flights of stairs. Pulling so much weight around the landings caused Damir considerable agony and by the time they’d finished he was soaking in perspiration. “I kept offering a tip or to take him out for dinner but he became hurt and flustered and refused,” offered Michael. I asked, “Did he appear rich?” Michael replied, “No, he said his wife had all the money.” Michael also told us that Damir is Albanian. His last name is Pejcinovic (and all the other members of his gang have similarly unpronounceable names).
But now, Damir is in jail in Brooklyn. Michael gave us his downstairs neighbor’s account of the arrest in October. “Five FBI cars lined the street and guys got out with drawn weapons.” As I was writing these words Dusty called Damir to say she’d talked to the wife and asked if she might go to the prison to interview him. She offered that the wife could arrange it.
If you get the Post article you can read in detail about many of the robberies and how they were carried out (evidently the FBI is very free in providing details). In true jewel thief fashion these heists took place around the world, not only on Fifth Avenue. The article makes a case that the robberies were committed by technically advanced thieves who very, very carefully planned their international hits and brought in specialists to overcome unique entry problems. Damir was the mastermind and did not go out on every job but plotted and monitored from his cell phone. The article also reports that Damir had separated from his wife after a “violent” domestic incident to which he pleaded guilty.
So, last month Nelly called to say her neighbor was shot, and this month an international jewel thief was in my kitchen!