To at least one of his West Fourth Street neighbors, Damir Pejcinovic was regarded as “Damian from The Bronx, a guy who made it and now lives in the Village.”
He resided in a $ 10 million town house and was believed to have accumulated enough wealth to retire while just in his 40s, the neighbor said. But nobody on the quaint block knew what the father of two young boys did to make his fortune. (There was speculation that he came from a big real-estate family.) His wife, Spresa, ran a hair salon out of their building.
But at around dawn on Oct. 24, 2018, FBI agents showed up at the home and arrested Pejcinovic. He is charged with masterminding a robbery ring that, since 2006, had allegedly stolen more than $ 10 million in jewels and cash in 16 robberies committed in cities ranging from New York to Portland, Ore., and as far as Frankfurt, Germany.
Three of Pejcinovic’s alleged accomplices — Gzimi “Jimbo” Bojkovic and Adrian Fiseku, both of Staten Island, and Elvis “Gorilla” Cirikovic, of Waterbury, Conn. — were also rounded up.
A source with knowledge of organized jewel thefts told The Post, “They are probably former Eastern Bloc military.” Such a background could provide the kind of training that comes in handy for breaking and entering. Plus, the source said, “it gives you a certain fraternal discipline. These guys are not flashy; they are quiet.”
As for the members’ work ethic, the source added, “As much time as you spend thinking about your job, they spend as much, if not more, thinking about theirs. That’s why it took so long to be caught.”
But after a lengthy investigation, the FBI-NYPD Joint Violent Crimes Task Force brought the alleged operation to justice. Its members are charged with the commission of burglaries and interstate transportation and sale of stolen goods.
Alleged victims included the owners of banks, jewelry stores and at least one restaurant. No target appeared off limits, although Pejcinovic and the crew seemed to have a special penchant: Of the 16 alleged crimes detailed in a document from the Manhattan US Attorney’s Office, 13 related to jewel merchants.
Cleverly, the crew, dubbed the Pejcinovic Enterprise, focused on lesser-known operators, according to authorities — places that kept millions of dollars in precious stones on hand.
Carefully strategizing each heist and exploiting every possible weakness, the gang resembled a real-life “Ocean’s Eleven,” complete with high-tech equipment and a thief on call for every occasion, according to prosecutor Andrew Ken-Wei Chan of the US Attorney’s Office.
During Pejcinovic’s initial hearing at a US District Court for the Southern District of New York, Chan revealed that the organization included “people with acrobatic abilities” for climbing onto rooftops or scaling buildings.“They had members of the group who were incredibly strong” and could muscle their way past walls, according to Chan.
There were also members skilled at jamming police radios, disabling alarm systems and cutting off phone lines. “And if the crew needed people who had expertise in security systems and phone systems and disabling security systems . . . members could fit that description as well,” the prosecutor claimed.
Among the group’s last confirmed heists was a hit that came barely minutes into New Year’s Day in 2017, according to the US Attorney’s Office. The target was KGK Jewelers, which also includes diamond dealer Gregg Ruth, on West 36th Street.
The sixth-floor jewel merchant was allegedly infiltrated by Pejcinovic, Bojkovic, Cirikovic and an unidentified accomplice at one minute after midnight. The robbers timed their crime to go down as thousands of police officers were occupied with the celebratory scene in nearby Times Square, a law-enforcement source previously told The Post.
The source said the thieves craftily “lay in wait until the ball dropped.”
Two members did the heavy lifting on that job, and sources said they broke into KGK through a freight entrance, using a sledgehammer and crowbar to gain entry. Surveillance footage reportedly shows one on a cellphone or walkie-talkie, seemingly being told the code for the diamond wholesaler’s safe.
After the heist, which yielded some $ 6 million in rings, earrings, bracelets and necklaces, there was speculation by law-enforcement sources about how it went down. At the time, anonymous sources told The Post that a drug-addicted employee of Lacka Safe Company — which manufactured the safe used at KGK — spilled the code to the criminals.
(Lacka Safe has since been sold, and the owners did not respond to requests for comment.)
“This burglary crew was incredibly sophisticated,” Chan told the court. “They had expertise that allowed them to compromise security systems at these locations by cutting off phone lines that connected jewelry stores with security counterparts.”
Additionally, Chan said, the enterprise employed “cellphone jammers that would prevent cell-tower communications” from the targets to alarm companies.
Some 20 years ago, Pejcinovic was arrested while in the process of dismantling a Beverly Hills jewelry store’s phone lines. Apparently, he later perfected his technique.
Beyond that, little seems to be known about Pejcinovic, including his native country. As Chan told the court, that’s partly because Pejcinovic has operated under many aliases. He apparently tried to launch a movie company called One World Films. (IMDb lists no credits for it.)
A source who worked with the alleged thief’s wife at a Manhattan salon recalled Pejcinovic as “quiet and not very friendly” when he would arrive to pick up Spresa.
He rarely attended the actual robberies, Chan told the court. Quarterbacking from remote locations, Pejcinovic allegedly manned technology to strategize hits. “He used his laptop computer to research police-scanner frequencies,” Chan said.
Pejcinovic also seemed to play the long con, patiently planning a 2011 robbery that, according to the US Attorney’s Office, yielded $ 3 million in jewels. He and his crew spent nearly a month scoping out Broadway Gold Center in downtown Los Angeles.
According to the store’s co-owner, Robert Sagezi, the thieves would show up after hours and kick the store’s exterior metal gate to intentionally set off burglar alarms. This way, the gang learned how long it took for police to arrive and watched how cops reacted to a site that appeared to not have been compromised.
“It happened so many times that I was fined for too many false alarms,” Sagezi told The Post. “[The crew] knew exactly how long it would take for the police to get there.”
The actual burglary happened on Feb. 19. So soon after the busy Valentine’s Day season, the store still had plenty of merchandise on display and not in a safe. (Sagezi and his partners believed their wares were secure behind the shop’s steel gate and the proven ready response of cops to their security alarms.)
According to Detective Michael Mazzacano, who investigated the case, the thieves broke into a vacant shop directly adjacent to Broadway Gold, then busted through the drywall between the two locations. That set off the alarm. But when police arrived, nothing seemed amiss — the gate remained undisturbed, just as it had with all the previous false alarms.
“I watched the surveillance video 100 times and it makes me feel sick,” Sagezi said. “They came in with suitcases and backpacks and dumped the jewelry in them. They could have been robbing the store as the police investigated from outside.”
But things eventually caught up with Pejcinovic.
While busting him at his home last November, law enforcers discovered the blueprint for what appeared to be a jewelry store. Chan, the prosecutor, told the court that he has connected the document to Pejcinovic “planning [his] next burglary job.”
Recently, the Village town house had been on the market for $ 9,999,999. (It is has since been pulled.)
At the same time, according to court documents, the US government is hoping to seize the property.
A man who resides near the home said Pejcinovic and his family ranked among the lowest profile people on a street where Andrea Soros, daughter of billionaire investor George Soros, is in the process of combining two town houses into a mega-mansion.
“Damian and Spresa drove ordinary cars,” the man said. “Except for the haircutting customers, no friends or anyone went in and out of the house.”
Another neighbor recalled, “Damian would sit on the porch, smiling at everyone.”
Pejcinovic was also known for his sub-par skills as a home repairman, and locals would fret over his obviously shoddy roof improvements.
Now, his wife, Spresa, is reportedly in the midst of splitting from Pejcinovic following what Chan characterized as “a violent felony arrest for a domestic incident” to which Pejcinovic pleaded guilty.
In a bit of a backhanded compliment — after Pejcinovic pleaded “preposterous” rather than guilty or innocent — the judge at his initial appearance deemed him a little too savvy for the public good. While his partners were all released on bail, the alleged ringleader was denied bond and currently awaits trial at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn.
To those in the jewelry world, it could not have happened soon enough.
“In this industry, getting robbed is a black mark,” said an insurance consultant who focuses on the diamond trade. “It can convey carelessness or a lack of security [by a retailer or wholesaler]. There was relief when Pejcinovic and the others were caught.”