The reputed leader of an international jewelry heist ring that netted more than $13 million in “sophisticated” capers from Manhattan to Europe over more than a decade was sentenced to eight years in prison Thursday.
Damir “Damian” Pejcinovic, who was raised in the Bronx but was living in a multi-million dollar townhouse in the tony West Village before his 2018 bust, was sentenced via telephone conference by Manhattan federal court Judge Victor Marrero.
During the hearing, prosecutors painted Pejcinovic as a serial thief who led a team of calculated burglars that cased jewelry stores and broke into safes with power tools and sledgehammers during their robbery spree from 2006 to 2017.
“For years this burglary crew committed heist after heist after heist without getting caught,” Assistant US Attorney Andrew Chan said at the hearing.
He then singled out Pejcinovic as the leader of the ring, urging the judge to impose a harsher sentence than those of his co-defendants.
“It was the defendant who decided where, when and how each burglary was going to happen,” Chan said.
He added that Pejcinovic would often wait in his car while his cohorts pulled off the jobs and did the “dirty work” of breaking into safes, disarming alarms and swiping jewels, gold and goods.
Jobs pulled off by the crew include a 2016 New Year’s Eve Manhattan heist of $3 million in jewels and another July 26, 2009 burglary at a separate Big Apple jewelry store that netted the thieves some $850,000 worth of merchandise, prosecutors said.
They also stole $70,000 in jewels from a Beverly Hills store on Aug. 28, 2010, and $1 million from a shop in Kansas City on Sept. 5, 2010, the indictment against the crew stated.
At the time of his arrest, Pejcinovic had a blueprint of a jewelry store in his multi-million dollar townhouse and research on his laptop about shops across the globe, Chan added.
Pejcinovic’s attorney, Peter Quijano, downplayed the sophistication of the crew, calling them a group of thieves who pulled off “smash and grab” jobs at their targets.
“None of these burglaries were sophisticated. They were nothing more than smash and grab burglaries,” Quijano said.
He added Pejcinovic had a business plan to develop a device that would refurbish deactivated safes and security systems, but that a device was never developed and never used in any of the burglaries. Instead, the crew used crude tools like sledge hammers and power tools, Quijano said.
“It never existed. It only existed in Damir’s mind,” Quijano said.
He also downplayed Pejcinovic’s role in the crew, saying he was primarily responsible for casing targets and acting as a getaway driver — and questioned if the sum of the goods they swiped was actually more than $13 million.
“The loss figures are reported by the jewelry stores themselves. The loss which the jewelry stores would claim for insurance purposes,” he said.
Pejcinovic spoke briefly at the sentencing, launching into a defense of the device he wanted to develop before his lawyer cut him off and spoke to him privately. When they rejoined the meeting, he said he had nothing further to say.
In handing down the eight-year sentence, Judge Marrero said he took into account the seriousness of the offense, the duration of the crimes and the sophistication used in the heists.
Pejcinovic has been held in the Metropolitan Detention Center since his arrest in 2018. It’s unclear where he will serve his federal prison time.