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Metro-North robbery spree suspect charged

NEWS 12 WESTCHESTER:Police say a suspect in a string of robberies at Westchester train stations has been arrested. (April 30, 2012)

A man accused of terrorizing Metro-North riders was charged with three counts of armed robbery Monday afternoon, with more charges pending.

Olivier Famby, 19, of New Rochelle, was formally charged in Pelham Village Court and was remanded to Westchester County Jail pending charges in other jurisdictions.

Train riders breathed a sigh of relief after the weekend arrest of the taxicab driver who police said preyed on commuters and was responsible for as many as eight armed robberies.

Nancie Merritt of New Rochelle said train riders dreaded becoming the next victim in the crime spree that stretched over four months.

"They were afraid to go to the train station," she said. "They needed someone with them because they felt that they'd be robbed or be hurt."

New Rochelle Police Commissioner Patrick Carroll, who attended the hearing, said Famby had no prior arrests and had been employed as a cabdriver in New Rochelle until recently, when his license was suspended.

Pelham police said a parking violation led to the arrest of Fambyas as he allegedly was preparing to commit another robbery.

"We're thrilled; we're thrilled and relieved," said Lorraine White of Pelham Manor. "Hopefully, something like this won't happen again."

The New Rochelle man was arrested at 5:20 a.m. Friday by Sgt. Christopher Casucci, a 15-year police veteran, near the Pelham train station as Famby was looking for a new victim, police said.

Famby was parked on Corlies Avenue when Casucci approached his car to issue a ticket for overnight parking in a zone where cars aren't allowed to be parked overnight, Pelham Det. Rick Deere said.

As he got closer, the officer realized there was a man inside.

"He realized the suspect had all black on, including a hood, and when he looked in the car he observed a handgun on the floor," Deere said.

Pelham Police Chief Joseph Benefico said that when Casucci began questioning him, Famby's stories were inconsistent.

"The occupant, later identified as Famby, began to make up stories as to why he was parked in Pelham and, in a matter of seconds, began to change his story," he said.

A search of Famby's car turned up evidence police said connected him to the other commuter robberies, including "some of the stolen property" Famby allegedly took from his victims at gunpoint, Deere said.

Deere and fellow Det. John Hynes interviewed Famby, who confessed to the three Pelham robberies and five other robberies in New Rochelle, Mamaroneck and Harrison, Benefico said. Famby also admitted that he came to the Pelham station only after scouting the Larchmont train station but failing to find a suitable robbery candidate that night, Benefico added.

Famby had not retained legal counsel, and efforts to contact him were unsuccessful. He also was charged Monday with possesion of a stolen Czech-made handgun.

The robberies had sparked fear among commuters and led to an increased police presence in communities where the robberies occurred.

In Harrison, police dressed in SWAT gear and armed themselves with semiautomatic rifles, and police in other towns stepped up patrols in response to the threat.

The suspect's method was to approach his victim from behind. Then he'd brandish a gun, tell his victim to lie down and relieve the victim of cash, cellphones and other valuable gadgets, according to police.

Crime near Metro-North stations in Westchester County has been on the rise in recent months.

Felonies rose 10 percent in 2011, with 35 incidents occurring in the first three months, according to the MTA. This year, felonies were up 26 percent in January, February and March on the five Metro-North lines: There were 44 felonies, with robberies and grand larcenies accounting for 33 of the reported crimes.

MTA spokeswoman Majorie Anders said the proliferation of mobile devices is mostly to blame.

"It has to do with the snatching of electronics, which is a nationwide trend," she said. "Thieves are grabbing cellphones and iPads, electronics ... that's it in a nutshell."

Commuters at several Westchester County Metro-North stations recently said they felt safe, but they remained vigilant.

"When I get off the train at night, I'm always conscious of who's around me," said Cherie Ball, a 22-year-old Iona College student. Ball, who travels to and from her public relations internship in Manhattan, said she makes sure to be on the phone talking to her mother or a friend when she gets off the Metro-North train at the New Rochelle station.

"It's definitely scary," Ball said as she waited for a train to Grand Central Terminal. "There's definitely been more police around, which is good."

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