BEDFORD HILLS, N.Y. — Bartek Zajkowski of Queens was charged with attempted robbery and extortion in connection with a May 5 home invasion on Broad Brook Road in Bedford Hills, according to a statement released Thursday by the office of U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara.
Zajkowski, 22, appeared Thursday in U.S. District Court in White Plains, where a complaint alleges that he approached the house on the night of May 5, tied up the husband at gunpoint and demanded to know where money and valuables were kept.
Zajkowski, a Polish national, had worked for a contractor at the Bedford Hills family’s residence in 2010, the complaint says. The husband had told him there were expensive paintings and gold and silver items in the residence, prosecutors said.
When Zajkowski entered the home on May 5, he engaged in a struggle with the wife and shot her in the stomach with a BB gun, then tied her up as well, prosecutors said.
As Zajkowski went to find the paintings, the woman freed herself and sounded the burglar alarm, and Zajkowski fled with the husband’s wallet, according to the complaint.
On May 7, a barn on the family’s property was destroyed by a fire suspected to be arson. Then, on May 14 and 17, the victims received two extortion letters that demanded they pay $1 million into a bank account in the Netherlands for each of their three children to ensure their family’s safety. In the letters, Zajkowski allegedly claimed responsibility for the barn fire.
“The allegations in the complaint paint a grim and terrifying picture of violence and explicit threats to harm the victims’ children,” Mary Galligan, FBI acting assistant director-in-charge, said in a statement. “In his evident greed, it is alleged that the defendant tormented his victims physically and emotionally.”
Westchester County District Attorney Janet DiFiore and Bedford Police Chief William Hayes credited teamwork between local, state, county and federal law enforcement agencies for success in Zajkowski’s apprehension.
The FBI arrested Zajkowski on June 1 on a warrant stemming from a September 2011 home invasion in Ridgefield, Conn., and placed him in a Connecticut state prison.
On Thursday in federal court in White Plains, Zajkowski was ordered held without bail and 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.
The case is being handled by the White Plains Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, which will continue investigating the case.