A Holtsville man cleared of carjacking, robbery and theft charges at CVS stores has filed a wrongful arrest lawsuit demanding more than $2 million from Nassau County.
David Melis, 60, accused Nassau police officers of conspiracy and falsifying evidence when they charged him in April 2015 with stealing from four CVS stores. Police had said he stole razors from the CVS in East Rockaway, where he struggled with employees, then got away by carjacking a woman.
Officers “unduly influenced and/or coerced” witnesses to pick Melis in a photo lineup, according to one of the few examples of problems cited in the suit, filed last month in U.S. District Court in Central Islip.
Melis had insisted he had evidence showing he was in Holbrook during the carjacking and charges against him were dropped that June, after forensic evidence in the hijacked car led to the arrest of Alexander Wachmyanin, 50. Melis also credited News 12 Long Island with obtaining store video that showed differences between the suspect and Melis.
In the suit, Melis also faulted unnamed officials and supervisors for “deliberate indifference” in failing to train and discipline police and jail employees. At the county jail in East Meadow, he alleges, his physical and medical needs were ignored and his property stolen.
Through a county spokesman, County Attorney Carnell Foskey declined to comment due to the pending litigation.
A police spokesman also referred comment to the county attorney. When police charged Wachmyanin, they had said “numerous” witnesses had identified Melis.
A spokesman for the Nassau County Sheriff’s Department, which runs the jail, did not immediately return calls.
His attorney, Mark Nadjar of Commack, believes Melis was targeted because he had written $400 in bad checks to stores in November 2012, a case pending in Suffolk at the time of his arrest by Nassau police.
“Part of this lawsuit is to find out why they singled out this guy,” said Nadjar, who is also Melis’ brother-in-law. “Was it because they knew he was someone in the system and he wasn’t likely to have enough money to hire a competent lawyer to get him out and they could have a quick arrest?”