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Police: Pair arraigned in nail salon robberies

A Suffolk judge Thursday set bail for a man and woman accused of robbing a string of Long Island nail salons at gunpoint.

Salvatore Scimeca, 55, of 255 Islip Blvd., Islip Terrace, was held with bail set at $600,000 cash or $1.8 million bond. Bail for his girlfriend and the accused getaway driver, Elise Sandberg, 34, of the same address, was set at $250,000 cash or $750,000 bond. Each was charged with four counts of first-degree robbery and one count of first-degree attempted robbery, according to court documents.

Both pleaded not guilty.

Scimeca, referring to a Dec. 13 robbery of Islip's Diamond Star Nail salon, said, "I robbed that place to get money for drugs; I have a problem," court documents show.

"It appears they both are addicted to heroin," Sandberg's defense attorney, Craig E. McElwee of North Babylon, said after she was arraigned.

Sandberg has worked as a baby-sitter for a family for two years. She is in a court-ordered drug-treatment program and has been tested every Monday for the past eight weeks, McElwee said.

She was convicted of grand larceny for ID theft on Nov. 22.

Judge Paul M. Hensley, a Suffolk County District Court judge in Central Islip, noted in court that Scimeca in 1991 was charged with murder; he pleaded guilty to manslaughter one year later. Scimeca has 17 prior convictions, the judge said.

According to court documents, Scimeca admitted to robbing the Charming Orchid Nail salon in Islip Terrace on Dec. 15. "I robbed the nail salon with a BB gun," he said.

The couple, who were arrested Wednesday, robbed at least nine nail salons from Dec. 13 to Dec. 31, according to Suffolk police and court documents.

Sometimes, they robbed two nail salons in one day, with only an hour or so between, police said; their last holdup was on New Year's Eve.

McElwee said Sandberg was cooperating with authorities, and her role was limited to driving a 2011 Hyundai Sonata to and from the nail salons -- at her boyfriend's direction.

"I knew Sal was going to do some robberies when I drove there -- and I knew it was wrong," she told police, according to the court documents.

Four nail salons were in the Islip area. The couple also are expected to be charged in Nassau with five robberies, in Valley Stream, Franklin Square, Wantagh and New Hyde Park between Dec. 23 and Dec. 30, Suffolk police said.

Scimeca is charged with criminal possession of a forged instrument -- an opioid prescription.

With Kevin Deutsch

and Gary Dymski

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