50K reward for 'pharmacy bandit' who robbed York St.

A Fishtown phar­macy was robbed last week dur­ing Hur­ricane Sandy, in what au­thor­it­ies be­lieve was not storm-re­lated chaos but the 14th hit in a string of Phil­adelphia-area phar­macy rob­ber­ies.

A Fishtown phar­macy robbed dur­ing Hur­ricane Sandy might have been the latest vic­tim of a ban­dit sus­pec­ted to be be­hind 13 oth­er loc­al drug store rob­ber­ies, au­thor­it­ies said.

“They were say­ing on the news he hit phar­ma­cies 13 times, so I’m num­ber 14,” York Street Phar­macy own­er Er­vis Rrapi said one day after he was held up at gun­point.

Rrapi, 31, was in his drug store at the corner of York and Mem­ph­is streets with a fel­low phar­macist at 7:20 p.m. Tues­day, Oct. 30, when the armed rob­ber entered. The man made off with Xanax, Per­co­cet, Oxy­codone and $2,000 cash.

“I re­cog­nized him. It is the same per­son that was on Chan­nel 16 [WNEP Phil­adelphia],” Rrapi said.

Bur­eau of Al­co­hol, To­bacco, Fire­arms and Ex­plos­ives’ Phil­adelphia Field Di­vi­sion spokes­man Spe­cial Agent Steve Bartho­lomew con­firmed ATF is in­vest­ig­at­ing the case as pos­sibly linked to the pre­vi­ous phar­macy rob­ber­ies.

“Based on the in­form­a­tion we re­ceived, there’s a like­li­hood it is the same in­di­vidu­al,” Bartho­lomew said.

Des­pite be­liefs that loot­ing rises dur­ing emer­gen­cies, this rob­bery was ap­par­ently pre­med­it­ated, not spon­tan­eous or re­lated to Hur­ricane Sandy.

“He just used the storm Sandy to put a plus to his plan,” Rrapi said.

A Pennsylvania Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency rep­res­ent­at­ive said the agency is not aware of crime trends dur­ing emer­gen­cies.

Fishtown and Phil­adelphia’s oth­er River Wards were en­dur­ing scattered rain­storms in the wake of Hur­ricane Sandy on Tues­day night when the rob­bery oc­curred.

The uniden­ti­fied white man entered York Street Phar­macy car­ry­ing a black re­volver and wear­ing a ski mask and gloves, ac­cord­ing to po­lice.

He handed a black cloth bag to the phar­macists and de­man­ded that they fill the bag with paink­illers. He then ordered Rrapi and his col­league to lie down while he emp­tied the cash re­gister and fled, po­lice said.

“He was quick,” Rrapi said. “He was very calm with what he was do­ing. I am grate­ful to him for that. He did not hurt us. It is no reas­on to die, for a couple of drugs and money.”

Rrapi said he con­tac­ted po­lice after the rob­bery and that they ar­rived with­in five to 10 minutes.

Bartho­lomew said that the ATF was made aware of the in­cid­ent and its likely con­nec­tion to the string of rob­ber­ies on Tues­day even­ing. The oth­er rob­ber­ies have taken place at vari­ous neigh­bor­hoods in the Phil­adelphia area such as Rhawhurst, Holmes­burg and Fox Chase, but nev­er be­fore in Fishtown.

Port Rich­mond Phar­macy own­er James Masino said he was un­aware of the rob­bery at York Street Phar­macy un­til hear­ing about it from Star, but that he was aware of the string of rob­ber­ies in the area. Masino de­clined to com­ment on the rob­ber­ies.

Al­though Rrapi said he was in fear for his life dur­ing the rob­bery, his phar­macy was open for busi­ness as usu­al the next day.

“I am grate­ful for sup­port and the com­munity’s sup­port,” he said. “My phar­macy is sur­roun­ded by cam­er­as. … We were able to get a few pic­tures and are help­ing the po­lice.”

The rob­ber is de­scribed as a white man, 5 feet 8 inches to 6 feet tall and of an av­er­age build. The ATF is re­quest­ing that any­one who has in­form­a­tion about this rob­ber con­tact their tip hot line at 1-800-ATF-GUNS (1-800-283-4867) or e-mail AT­F­Tips@atf.gov.

A $50,000 re­ward is be­ing offered for in­form­a­tion that would lead to identi­fy­ing and ar­rest­ing the so-called “phar­macy ban­dit.” The re­ward com­prises $10,000 from the ATF and $40,000 from Rite Aid Phar­macy.

Re­port­er Sam Ne­w­house can be reached at 215-354-3124 or at sne­w­house@bsmphilly.com.

You can reach at snewhouse@bsmphilly.com.

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