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Romanian national pleads guilty to charges related to home invasion, extortion of Connecticut couple

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A Romanian man has pleaded guilty to a bizarre home invasion in which he injected a wealthy Connecticut couple with a harmless blue dye, told them the injection contained a “deadly virus,” and ordered to pay $8.5 million for an antidote.

According to a Department of Justice press release, Stephan Alexandre Barabas, 38, pleaded guilty Tuesday to conspiracy to commit obstruction of commerce by racketeering and faces six to seven years in prison if a plea agreement is accepted.

According to the release, just before midnight on April 15, 2007, Barabas and his accomplices, Emmanuel Nicolescu and Alexandre Lucien Nicolescu, entered a South Kent mansion wearing masks, brandishing knives and carrying airsoft guns that resembled real guns.

“The men bound and blindfolded the two adult victims and injected each with a substance the intruders claimed was a deadly virus,” the statement said. “The intruders demanded that the victims pay $8.5 million or be left to die by lethal injection. When it became apparent that the victims would not be able to comply with the intruders’ demands, the intruders drugged the two residents and escaped in the homeowner’s jeep.”

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Stefan Alexandre Barabas, 38, pleaded guilty in a Connecticut court on Tuesday to his role in the bizarre home-invasion plot. (FBI handout)

The home belongs to Ann Bass, an investor, documentary filmmaker and art collector who was the former wife of Texas billionaire Sid Bass, according to the Oneida Daily Dispatch, who said Emmanuel Nicolescu was once Bass’s butler.

According to court testimony in the criminal trial of Emmanuel Nicolescu, reported by local media, Bass and her boyfriend, artist Julian Lethbridge, were held hostage for five to six hours and repeatedly demanded $8.5 million. Bass’ three-year-old grandson was asleep throughout the incident and was unharmed.

The Jeep was recovered the next morning in a parking lot in New Rochelle, New York, about 65 miles away, police said.

A week after the home invasion, conclusive evidence in the crime washed up on the shores of Jamaica Bay on Long Island: Inside an accordion case, authorities found a stun gun, a black plastic airsoft gun, a 12-inch knife, a crowbar, sleeping pills, syringes, latex gloves, and a laminated card with the victim’s South Kent home address.

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Philanthropist Ann Bass

Ann Bass, the ex-wife of billionaire Sid Bass, and her boyfriend Julian Lethbridge were bound, blindfolded and injected with what they were told was a deadly virus during a robbery in 2007. (Associated Press)

Nearly three years later, Connecticut State Police investigators linked a partial Pennsylvania license plate used the night of the robbery to the car of a fourth accomplice, Michael N. Kennedy, who drove the three men to their home and then picked them up.

Investigators discovered that Emmanuel Nicolescu had previously lived with Kennedy, and cell phone data showed he had called from the same time and location where the Jeep was left, and his DNA was later matched to DNA recovered in the vehicle.

Investigators discovered that Kennedy’s father was a professional accordion player, and a witness later identified a knife found in the accordion case as a gift from Emmanuel Nicolescu’s father-in-law, the Justice Department wrote.

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Emanuel Nicolescu

Emmanuel Nicolescu was Bath’s former butler at his South Kent mansion. After the home invasion, he was convicted of attempted blackmail, conspiracy to blackmail and possessing a stolen vehicle in 2012 and sentenced to 20 years in prison. (FBI handout)

“The investigation revealed that Emmanuel Nicolescu and Kennedy conspired with Barabas and Alexandre Nicolescu to commit the crimes,” the Justice Department said. “Barabas’ co-conspirators planned the burglaries, including researching and purchasing the tools they needed to commit the crimes, including two-way radios, stun guns and an imitation handgun. On the evening of April 15, 2007, Kennedy drove Barabas, Emmanuel Nicolescu and Alexandre Nicolescu to the vicinity of their South Kent home and picked them up the next morning in New Rochelle where the intruders had left the stolen Jeep.”

During the investigation, all four fled the United States, with Emmanuel Nicolescu returning to the United States and arrested in Illinois in January 2011. Alexandre Nicolescu was tracked to the United Kingdom and arrested on November 14, 2013, according to a Department of Justice statement. Kennedy, who holds dual Romanian and U.S. citizenship, voluntarily returned to the United States in November 2021.

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Barabas, who pleaded guilty to additional charges this week, remained a fugitive in Hungary until his arrest in August 2022.

The three co-defendants were charged with attempted extortion and extortion conspiracy, and Kennedy was additionally charged with possession of a stolen vehicle. According to the Department of Justice, Kennedy was sentenced to 48 months in prison, Alexandre Nicolescu to 10 years and one month in prison, and Emmanuel Nicolescu to 20 years in prison.

Barabas has been in custody since his arrest in 2022 and is scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 11, according to authorities.