Aug. 23, 2012 -- What could have been the perfect crime was undone when the identity of the alleged robbers was unmasked by a grateful note thanking a company for the disguise.
Police arrested Edward Byam, 24, and Akeem Monsalvatge, 37, on Monday and charged them with wearing realistic Hollywood-style masks and dressed as New York City detectives to knock over a Pay-O-Matic check cashing facility on Valentine's Day in Queens, N.Y.
The suspects, wearing NYPD badges and jackets, baseball caps, and dark sunglasses threatened a clerk by showing her photographs of her home and made off with nearly $200,000, police said.
For months cops thought they were looking for two white suspects, when the investigation received an important tip.
One suspect bore a striking similarity to "Mac the Guy," a silicon mask manufactured by movie-makeup company CFX Composite Effects.
When investigators contacted the company, they were told Byam had recently emailed the firm in thanks for the mask.
"I'm sending this message to say I'm extremely pleased by CFX work on the mask," Byam allegedly wrote the company, as first reported by the New York Post and confirmed by the NYPD and the company. "The realism of the mask is unbelievable."
Byam and Monsalvatge are black.
According to the company's website "Mac is designed for ultimate human realism." The company sells the silicon mask starting at $569, but it can be customized with fake hair, including the goatee the thieves allegedly used.
Byam had made another critical blunder, police said.
Cops traced the photo of the clerk's home, which was left at the scene of the crime, to a Walgreen's pharmacy where the print was made. The store was able to link a receipt for the prints to Byam's phone number, cops confirmed.
The two men were charged Wednesday with robbery and impersonating an officer and were ordered held without bond. It was unclear whether they had obtained attorneys.
Criminals have increasingly turned to realistic masks in committing crimes.
In 2010, Canadian officials called the use of a mask an "unbelievable case of concealment" when a young Asian man tried entering the country illegally disguised as an elderly white man.