New Jersey ‘boastful bandit’ cites tough times in coming to Mount Pleasant

Craig S. Ozarowski

A serial robber known as the “boastful bandit” in his native New Jersey wasn’t bashful in court Thursday about his checkered past.

Craig S. Ozarowski, 55, of Belmar, stood before a magistrate during a bond hearing in North Charleston and talked about spending decades behind bars for various crimes.

Recently, Ozarowski said, he made a break from the Garden State and traveled to the Lowcountry. And on Wednesday morning, according to arrest affidavits, he robbed a SunTrust bank in Mount Pleasant of $1,663.

Police said he had spent time in prison for several robberies in New Jersey, and had been paroled. But he absconded from his federal probation just 10 days before the Mount Pleasant incident, police said.

“I had a place I was staying there, and things didn’t go good,” Ozarowski said. “They didn’t want to help nobody out. So I went on the run. They say the feds want me for different things — armed robberies, bank robberies.”

Magistrate Linda Lombard ordered Ozarowski held in lieu of a $600,000 bail. He faces charges of armed robbery and possession of a firearm during the commission of a violent crime.

A heavyset man donning a nylon sweatsuit held up the bank at 404 Johnnie Dodds Blvd. at 9:16 a.m. Wednesday. The robber pointed a black handgun at one of the five employees, police said.

“(He) claimed to be in the possession of a firearm as well as an explosive device,” Cpl. Daniel Eckert, a Mount Pleasant police investigator, said during the hearing. “(He) ordered the clerks to give him money.”

The robber ran from the bank and scampered through a parking lot toward the Holiday Inn Express about 100 yards away. That’s where police said they found Ozarowski, who had rented a room.

Officers discovered an airsoft pistol in his room, but no bomb, police said.

Ozarowski was the first inmate at Charleston County’s jail to face Lombard during Thursday morning’s hearing session. Unlike the other inmates, Ozarowski shuffled into the courtroom with his hands cuffed behind his back.

He was a disciplinary issue. Maj. Jim Brady, a sheriff’s spokesman, said correctional officers were keeping a watchful eye on Ozarowski.

“He was making threats out loud against the jail staff,” Brady said. “He said he would take hostages at the jail, but he hasn’t done anything to act on that.”

Ozarowski does not face charges in connection with the outbursts, Brady said. Federal court records indicate that he has a history of such problems while being incarcerated.

In 1989, during a stay at the Leavenworth penitentiary in Kansas, he was indicted on a charge of malicious property damage by fire. He pleaded guilty and was ordered to spend seven years behind bars after finishing his robbery sentences.

Ozarowski told the magistrate Thursday that he had “just got done doing 33 years straight” in federal prisons, including a facility in Florence, Colo.

Old news reports stated that Ozarowski had been convicted of robbing New Jersey convenience stores, clothing shops, banks and supermarkets during the 1980s. After one arrest, he told authorities that he had hit 30 banks.

Judges sentenced him to 35 years in prison, but records indicate that he was paroled in 2002.

Eckert, the local police corporal, said Ozarowski recently busted the conditions of his federal probation.

He had been living at a motel in New Jersey before trekking southward, police said. He told Lombard that he didn’t have a permanent place to stay.

“There is no address,” he said. “No, I’m not homeless.”

At the hearing’s conclusion, Ozarowski started reiterating his criminal past, but the magistrate interrupted him and said, “We’ll get to that later.”

Reach Andrew Knapp at 937-5414 or twitter.com/offlede.

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