5 arrested for string of pharmacy robberies

June 13, 2011 4:02:29 PM PDT
Five men are now in custody and authorities say they are behind 8 pharmacy robberies.

Pharmacist Tom DiFilippo remembers May 24th, 2010 all too well.

"He pulled out a handgun and put it in the air and he asked for all the OxyContin and Percocet," DiFilippo said.

It was on that day Vizzoni's Pharmacy in Hamilton, where DiFilippo's worked for over 30 years, was robbed at gunpoint.

"He said hurry up. I quickly got the drugs as fast as I could, then when I handed him the bag he put me facedown and that's when I got a little concerned because at that point I thought oh, he's going to shoot me," DiFilippo said.

Now, police say after a year-long investigation, they've arrested the five men responsible for 8 of 9 armed robberies at neighborhood pharmacies in Hamilton and Trenton during 2009 and 2010, holdups where the thieves stole thousands of narcotic painkiller pills like Percocet and OxyContin.

"Some of the individuals were addicted, were abusing the pills, and we also got information that they were selling them on the street; there's a demand out there for these pills," Trenton Police Sgt. Carmelo Rodriguez said.

"We're almost sure they passed along information amongst each other in regards to what locations to hit, what was available at each and every location," Trenton Police Acting Chief Joe Juniak said.

This string of robberies has changed the way these small Mom and Pop pharmacies operate. They've now installed security they never had or needed before.

At Vizzoni's Pharmacy, for instance, there are now cameras all over and you have to be buzzed in to the store because the front door is locked.

"It was a group of young males running around Trenton with handguns committing armed robberies. They were very dangerous," Steve Montgomery of the FBI said.

Police say the suspects, being held on bails of up to $600,000, so far do not appear to be connected to the April 25th murder of Brunswick Pharmacy owner Arjun Reddy, who was gunned down when he refused to give the robber any drugs. But they are making progress in that case.

"There are certain parties of interest that we have that may be in the near future become more than just parties of interest," Mercer County Prosecutor Joe Bocchini said.

In fact, sources say police hope to make an arrest in the pharmacy murder case in a week or so.