A Wilton man who police said stole 4,000 narcotic pills at gunpoint from a CVS Pharmacy saw his getaway plan foiled Wednesday evening when police nabbed him at Albany International Airport as he waited to catch a flight to Florida.
Darin L. Zabor, 47, of 201 Brownstone Court, didn’t seem to suspect police were after him when Lt. John Catone approached him at the airport, Catone said Thursday as authorities announced the arrest.
“He had no idea why I was there to talk to him,” Catone said.
Zabor is accused of robbing the CVS on Congress Street at 12:50 a.m. Tuesday after strolling around the store for 35 minutes in camouflage pants and a jacket, apparently waiting for customers to leave.
Police said Zabor then approached the pharmacy counter, showed the clerk two older-model revolvers and demanded hydrocodone and oxycodone pills. He left with more than 4,000 hydrocodone pills, a narcotic prescription pain reliever, but no oxycodone, Catone said.
Police would not speculate Thursday whether Zabor planned to sell the pills, which Catone said could fetch more than $40,000 on the street, though their value varies depending on where they are sold.
After the robbery, Zabor drove himself home in a white minivan that broke down on his way there, Catone said.
He stayed in the area all day Tuesday, then rode with a friend in a rented car to Boston early Wednesday, Catone said. Zabor planned to accompany the friend to the friend’s doctor’s appointment in Philadelphia, but changed his plans when he got to Boston.
Instead, he bought a plane ticket from Logan International Airport to Florida and boarded the plane around 4:30 p.m. Wednesday. He was to pick up a connecting flight in Albany. Zabor apparently didn’t realize at the time that surveillance photos of him had been publicized, Catone said.
Police, who would not detail how they picked up Zabor’s trail, intercepted him at the airport in Colonie as he waited for the connecting flight, which was cancelled because of storms.
It appeared Zabor felt safe staying in the area for a day because he wasn’t caught right away, said Saratoga County District Attorney James A. Murphy III.
“He didn’t have to flee the jurisdiction immediately; he could lay low,” Murphy said.
Zabor was charged with first-degree robbery and criminal possession of a loaded firearm, both felonies, and misdemeanor second-degree menacing. He is in the Saratoga County jail in lieu of $100,000 cash bail or $200,000 bond.
He faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted.
His friend was not charged and doesn’t appear to have known about the robbery, authorities said.
Authorities need to gather more evidence and have the state police crime lab analyze the guns, so it will take some time until a Saratoga County grand jury will take up the case and decide whether to indict Zabor, Murphy said. The crime lab will determine whether the guns were capable of being fired and attempt to discern whether they were loaded at the time of the robbery.
Police recovered many of the hydrocodone pills. Zabor carried some pills on him at the airport, and police got many more when they searched his home, Catone said. It is unclear whether all the pills are accounted for, he said, adding that city police are working with the pharmaceutical division of the federal Drug Enforcement Administration.
“We are not going to count the pills until they’re with us,” he said of the DEA.
The guns are not registered in New York state, and police believe Zabor bought them in Florida, where he previously lived. They are not sure whether the guns were legally purchased.
Catone said Zabor appears to have no criminal history in New York state.
Law enforcement officials nationwide are seeing an increasing problem with people abusing prescription drugs, stealing them from pharmacies and selling them on the street.
Thirty years ago, “You had a fair amount of cocaine and crack, whatever was popular at the time,” Catone said. “You didn’t have issues with people walking into pharmacies and holding them up for hydrocodone.”
Crack and cocaine are still popular, along with heroin, so law enforcement is battling those drugs along with prescription narcotics.
“Today we’re seeing an epidemic of prescription drugs as being kind of as valuable as cash,” Murphy said.
So pharmacies, especially all-night pharmacies like the CVS, now face an armed robbery threat similar to banks, but pharmacy staffers don’t necessarily receive the training bank tellers do to handle those incidents, he said.
The clerk who dealt with Zabor was “terrified” and thought he was going to be killed, Murphy said.
“The clerk was really stunned,” Murphy said. “It was a new guy.”
Elsewhere, pharmacies are handling the threat with bulletproof glass, armed guards and separating customers from the pharmacy counter, Catone said, but that hasn’t happened here yet.