Man Pleads Guilty to Home Invasion of Wealthy Patron, Faking Virus Attack

After an unsuccessful effort to extort the sum of $8.5 million from a wealthy arts patron and her boyfriend in a 2007 house invasion scaring them with a lethal disease, the last of three men suspects pled guilty.

Hungarian authorities apprehended Romanian national Stefan Alexandru Barabas (38) in 2022 after he had evaded capture for over 15 years. According to federal authorities, he admitted last week to conspiring to extort money from businesses.

The sentencing hearing for Barabas is set on September 11, and if the court accepts the plea deal, prosecutors say he may spend 6 to 7 years behind bars.

Prosecutors said that two other masked burglars, who they alleged broke into the South Kent property alongside Barabas wielding fake firearms, were among the three other individuals convicted in the case.

After injecting abstract artist Julian Lethbridge and philanthropist Anne Hendricks Bass with what they said was a fatal virus, the men threatened to leave them to die unless they paid $8.5 million.

According to authorities, they injected tranquilizers into Bass and Lethbridge after realizing they couldn’t satisfy their demands. They then escaped in Bass’ Jeep Cherokee.

The next morning, the SUV was discovered abandoned in a Home Depot parking lot. After some time had passed, in Jamaica Bay, New York, an accordion bag containing a stun gun, a foot-long knife,  a crowbar, a fake gun, syringes, latex gloves, sleeping pills, and a card with Bass and Lethbridge’s address was discovered.

The guys were subsequently linked to the knife and accordion case, along with other pieces of evidence, such as an incomplete Pennsylvania license plate that a witness had spotted near Bass’ property on the night of the home invasion.

The victim’s employee, Emmanuel Nicolescu, had lived at the same home as Michael N. Kennedy in the past; in 2010, authorities from the Connecticut State Police connected a Pennsylvania license plate to Kennedy’s vehicle.

Not long after the Jeep was left abandoned, Nicolescu’s registered phone number was shown in cell tower records as having made a call. The DNA of Emanuel Nicolescu was partly matched to that of the steering wheel of the Jeep.  Bass said at Nicolescu’s 2012 trial that the night the men stormed into her house, she thought she would die.

Bass died in 2020 at age 78.