Cranford, Hillside and Clark police cooperate during investigation integral to bank robbery arrest

UNION COUNTY — A Newark man and his girlfriend have been arrested and charged in federal court in connection with an armed robbery of Garden State Community Bank located at 310 North Avenue East in Cranford last month.

At 1:42 p.m. on August 10, Cranford Police responded to an activated alarm and discovered that the bank had been robbed minutes earlier. The suspect, a black male wearing a black ball cap and a long sleeve blue button down shirt, approached a teller, displayed a black firearm and demanded cash before fleeing the bank on foot. The robbery was captured on bank surveillance video and matched the modus operandi of several previous bank robberies, including one in Clark.

Cranford detectives went door to door through the neighborhood of the bank, eventually locating a residential home video system and several commercial systems that identified the suspect vehicle as a silver or gray Chevrolet Equinox operated by a white female. As a result of their investigation, Detectives Robert Montague and Ryan Greco were able to determine that the vehicle fled north on the Garden State Parkway before exiting on Route 22.

On Sept. 11, the same suspect committed an armed robbery of the Lusitania Savings Bank on Liberty Street in Hillside. The suspect vehicle information developed by Cranford detectives was immediately relayed to Hillside units at the scene of the robbery. Cranford Sgt. Christopher Polito and Det. John Swandrak accessed the automated license plate reader network and within minutes had determined that a Chevrolet Equinox had been present within one block of the Hillside bank at the time of the robbery. The license plate and description was communicated to Hillside detectives and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Those agencies located the suspect vehicle on recorded video from a nearby surveillance camera.

Based on this information, the FBI was able to locate the vehicle and the alleged female driver several hours later. Additional investigation conducted jointly by the FBI, Hillside detectives, Det. Montague, and Clark Det. George Marmarou led to the arrest of the alleged female driver, Jennifer Pinto, 32, of Newark, and the alleged robbery suspect, Andrew Thomas, 32, of Newark. A search of the couple’s apartment by Hillside detectives, FBI agents and Cranford detectives led to the recovery of an imitation firearm, suspected robbery proceeds and suspected clothing used in various robberies.

Following the arrest, Cranford Police Chief Eric Mason praised the interagency cooperation involved. “Communication and cooperation are what allow law enforcement agencies to maintain a competitive advantage in the fight against crime,” he said. “This arrest is the direct result of the timely dissemination of information and diligent police work by Cranford detectives and officers from every agency investigating this crime spree.”