Carjacking, robbery and theft charges were dropped Tuesday against a Holtsville man after a new suspect was arrested Sunday in connection with an April crime spree involving four CVS stores in Nassau, prosecutors said.
David Melis, 59, had all along insisted that Nassau police had wrongly charged him in an April 22 incident at the East Rockaway CVS, where police had said he struggled with employees before carjacking a woman's Toyota to get away.
Two days later, he was charged in the four CVS cases, but he and his attorney offered evidence placing him in Suffolk around the time of the incident, including witnesses and surveillance video.See alsoWatch: Man speaks after charges droppedDataLI crime stats
After Nassau district attorney's investigators and police verified Melis' claims, Nassau police nabbed Alexander Wachmyanin, 50, in Hempstead Village and charged him with seven thefts and other crimes between April and late June. That included the crimes Melis had been charged with.
Police said they found forensic evidence against Wachmyanin in the vehicle he hijacked.
In a news release, they said Melis' arrest was "based on numerous witness identifications."
Wachmyanin, believed to be homeless, was arraigned Monday on felony charges of robbery and grand larceny, and misdemeanor petty larceny.
He had a pending theft case involving a Westbury drugstore in January when he allegedly stole thousands of dollars in merchandise from seven other Nassau drug and food stores, according to court records. He took over-the-counter medicine from Key Food in Garden City on June 25 and 26, court documents said, and at just the CVS in East Rockaway, he left with about $1,700 worth of merchandise by hiding the items in his jacket.
Bail was set at $310,000 bond or $155,000 cash. It was unclear if he had an attorney.
A spokesman for acting District Attorney Madeline Singas said prosecutors took Melis' innocence claims seriously.
"We dismissed the case after a very thorough investigation by our office," spokesman Shams Tarek said.
Melis and his attorney, Mark Nadjar of Commack, could not be reached Tuesday.Nadjar weeks ago told News 12 Long Island that the man in the CVS surveillance video did not look and walk like Melis.
Shortly after Melis' arrest, Nadjar told Newsday that "the police are basically singling him out based on the open charges in Suffolk" in which Melis is charged with forgery, when officials said he wrote about $400 in bad checks in November 2012. That case is pending.
"They got the wrong guy," Nadjar had said. In the April 22 robbery of the CVS at 488 Ocean Ave., police had said store employees saw Melis stealing razors, and after he left the store, the manager and another employee chased him westbound on Prospect Avenue, then struggled with him before recovering the stolen razors.
Melis kept going on Prospect Avenue, police had said, then confronted a woman about to enter her running car, pushed her out of the way and jumped into the vehicle.
Other witnesses ran to help her, trying to pull the man from the car, but he put the car into reverse, struck a parked vehicle behind him and then drove across the victim's lawn before escaping, police said.
Melis was then charged with second-degree robbery of a motor vehicle, third-degree robbery and petty larceny. He also was charged with fourth-degree grand larceny and two counts of petty larceny in the April 14 thefts from CVS stores at 488 Ocean Ave; 494 Atlantic Ave., also in East Rockaway; and 1220 Peninsula Blvd. in Hewlett.
Nadjar told reporters that he has witnesses, receipts and surveillance video that prove his client couldn't have been in East Rockaway at 3 p.m. that day.
He said surveillance video showed Melis picking up his niece from Sachem High School East at 2:20 p.m. that day, while a receipt from a Holbrook auto body shop, where Melis picked up his sister's car, is time-stamped at 3:20 p.m., 20 minutes after the 3 p.m. theft and carjacking in East Rockaway. That is 41 miles away.