Two Oak Bluffs men arrested in $85,000 safe heist

Updated Thursday, April 14, 9:55 am

A polygraph machine and a confession led Oak Bluffs police to two men they say broke into the house of a 77-year-old man and stole a safe that contained his life savings of about $85,000.

Daniel A. BenDavid, 48, of Oak Bluffs was arraigned in Edgartown District Court Friday, on charges of burglary, larceny, breaking and entering to commit a felony, breaking into a depository, and two charges of conspiracy. He was also charged with malicious vandalism, after police say he slashed the tires of a relative of the victim. Associate Justice J. Thomas Kirkland set bail at $1,000 bail, and Mr. BenDavid was released.

The second suspect, Stanley Johnson, 50, of Oak Bluffs was arraigned Monday on charges of burglary, larceny, breaking and entering to commit a felony, breaking into a depository, and two charges of conspiracy. He was also charged with possession of cocaine and crack cocaine, based on drugs seized during a police search of his home. Clerk-magistrate Joseph Sollitto set bail at $15,000, and scheduled a bail review before a district court judge on Friday.

Police said Mr. BenDavid and Mr. Johnson broke into the house, which is near Mr. BenDavid’s basement apartment at 25 Franklin Street, on March 19. At the request of police, The Times agreed not to identify the robbery victim.

Early in the investigation, police identified Mr. BenDavid as a person of interest and focused on people who were aware the homeowner was out of town. Mr. BenDavid agreed to take a polygraph test. On April 6, Sgt. Michael Marchand took him to the Mashpee police department, which has a polygraph machine and a trained examiner.

“It was determined through the test that he was being deceptive about his involvement in the crime,” Lieutenant Tim Williamson said in a press release.

Mr. BenDavid then admitted to the safe heist and named Mr. Johnson as his accomplice.

According to police, Mr. BenDavid contacted an acquaintance and arranged to return some of the stolen money. “BenDavid had gift-wrapped a box and asked an unknown female to hold the package, under the guise that the package was a gift for his daughter,” Lt. Williamson said. A total of $31,500 in cash inside the package was returned to the Mashpee police station.

Second suspect

Later that evening, police executed search warrants on the houses of Mr. BenDavid and Mr. Johnson. When police searched Mr. Johnson’s house they encountered Stacy L. Strelecki, 37, of Edgartown, in a room with marijuana, cocaine and crack pipes, police said. She was arrested on cocaine possession charges.

At the station house, Mr. Johnson confessed to his part in the theft, according to police. He told them he took his part of the cash to New York and left it with a relative.

“Since Johnson was now cooperating with the investigating officers, the decision was made not to arrest Johnson at this time and give him the opportunity to retrieve the money,” Lt. Williamson said in the press release. “This decision was based on the fact that Johnson owns a home in Oak Bluffs that he resides in with his wife and young child.”

Police said they did not believe that Mr. Johnson posed a flight risk, and he agreed to return with the money at noon on Friday, April 8. But he did not return, and a warrant was issued for his arrest.

Police received a phone call about 3:30 on Friday afternoon from attorney J. Drew Segadelli. He said he represented Mr. Johnson, who would surrender at Edgartown District Court the following Monday.

Police decided not to wait. Edgartown police officer Michael Snowden learned that Mr. Johnson might be in the Plymouth area. Island State Police Sergeant Jeff Stone contacted the Norwell State Police barracks.

At about 6 pm, Friday, State police and Plymouth police located Mr. Johnson’s vehicle and arrested him. Police seized $5,800 in cash from Mr. Johnson. They believe it was part of the stolen money.

Police seized a total of $37,300 in cash from the two suspects. The rest of the money is still missing.

In his own words

In a visit to The Times office Wednesday morning, Mr. BenDavid said he wanted to set the record straight.

“It was stupid, it was just stupid,” Mr. BenDavid said. “We were bored, it was winter, we were both broke.”

Mr. BenDavid said he was under the influence of the drug Xanax when he entered the house.

“It made me dumb. It wasn’t planned. It all happened within one hour,” he said.

The men entered the house expecting to find some envelopes of cash but instead came across a small safe not bolted to the floor and easily removed. He said he was shocked to see how much money it contained. “I mean, who leaves that kind of money around,” he said. “That’s what they have banks for.”

The men divided the money up. As the days went by, Mr. BenDavid said he felt badly about what he had done. He said he readily agreed to a lie detector test.

“The guilt got to me,” he said. “Volunteering to take the lie detector test was my way out.”

In a telephone call Wednesday morning, Lieutenant Williamson said that Mr. BenDavid has fully cooperated.

“He has done everything right since he confessed,” Lieutenant Williamson said. “He met his end of the bargain, and Johnson has not. My goal is working for the victim to get his money back.”

This story was corrected to reflect that Mr. Johnson was arrested on Friday, April 8, not Saturday, April 9.