UTICA, N.Y. - A Philadelphia man was charged yesterday with murder and 18 counts of robbery in the slaying of a New Hartford police officer during a $1 million jewelry store heist three years ago.

Marion Pegese has been described as the leader of a gang that carried out armed jewelry-store robberies up and down the East Coast. He pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder and the robbery charges in Oneida County Court.

"This was a tight-knit group based out of Philadelphia, and it appears he was the leader," said Assistant District Attorney Kurt Hameline.

"There was a series of robberies in the Philadelphia area and up and down the East that were similar to this . . . where four-man teams would disable the surveillance system, duct-tape employees and then steal high-end jewelry and Rolex watches," Hameline said, adding that the FBI had been investigating the group.

Pegese, 36, waived an extradition hearing two weeks ago in New Jersey and was returned to New York on Friday. He had been in a New Jersey prison since February, when he was sentenced to 18 years in connection with a 2005 jewelry-store robbery in Freehold, N.J.

Prosecutors said that Pegese was one of four men who carried out an armed robbery at Lennon's-W.B. Wilcox jewelry store in New Hartford in February 2006. The intruders restrained several store employees and fled in two cars with watches, rings and diamond jewelry.

Officer Joseph Corr, 30, a six-year police veteran, was fatally shot in the neck after chasing two of the robbers, who crashed their car into the gas pumps at a convenience store and then tried to run away.

Police caught one, Toussaint Davis, at the crash scene. Davis, 50, was convicted in January 2007 and sentenced to 300 years in prison as an accomplice.

Walter Richardson Jr., the man who authorities said had shot Corr, was killed the next day in a gunfight with U.S. marshals in Chester, Pa.

Pegese and Robert Ward, 30, also of Philadelphia, escaped in the second car but were later arrested in Philadelphia in the New Jersey robbery. Ward also is serving an 18-year sentence for the Freehold robbery.

Hameline said that Oneida County authorities hope to bring Ward to New York in the next three to four weeks to be charged in the Corr case. The two men would be tried together, he said. *