Bank Thieves Saw Through Roof Under Cover of July 4 Fireworks, Steal $290k


The average take in a bank robbery is around $4,000, according to federal authorities. That’s because most heists are the hurried. Note to the teller, cash into the pockets, out the door before the police arrive. The big money is in the safe and cracking a safe take a sophisticated and creative approach (and happens in less than five percent of bank robberies).

The subjects of our May feature story, for instance, pilfered $200,000 from a Queens check-cashing outlet in 2012 by threatening the teller with a photo of her home just before she entered the building to start her morning shift. They had cased the place for weeks, wearing realistic masks and police uniforms to avoid suspicion, and they knew what time the security guard opened the safe.

On Friday, a crew of robbers topped that score. These guys made off with $290,000 from a bank on the Lower East Side. They had time to crack the vault because they broke in overnight. They were able to break in overnight by sawing a hole in the roof. And they were able to saw a hole in the roof without anybody noticing because the Fourth of July fireworks were bursting above the East River.

See also out May feature story on a $200,000 bank heist: Who Were Those Masked Men, Anyway?

Police suspect that they cut through the fence of an adjacent property, then climbed up a construction site to access Popular Community Bank’s roof. An unnamed source told the New York Post that it took the thieves at least an hour to cut the hole in the roof. The Macy’s fireworks show began around 9 p.m.

Once inside, the robbers cracked one of the two vaults and stole the $290k. The other vault, the Post reported, contained more money.

The robbers from the 2012 check-cashing heist might have appreciated the tactics for this LES score. Months before the three-man crew stole the $200k, according to prosecutors, they had a failed attempt on the roof of another Queens check-cashing outlet. Their key mistake, it now appears, was a lack of corporate-sponsored holiday fireworks.

As we wrote in the feature:

At around 3 a.m., a man with a crowbar climbed a ladder to the roof of a Whitestone Check Cashing outlet on Queens Boulevard in Jamaica. With the crowbar, he worked to pop open the siding of the metal box covering the building’s air conditioning unit. The process was slow and the crowbar made loud, rhythmic banging noises. Half an hour in and the job still wasn’t done. Then came the sound of footsteps below. The man looked into the lot behind the building. Two uniformed police officers were staring right at him. He dropped the crowbar, ran to the edge of the roof, then leaped off, onto the dirt at the base of an embankment. He scurried up the slope and onto the Long Island Railroad tracks, sprinting through the darkness until he was sure no one was chasing him.

The police had arrived because the teller inside the building heard the banging. He testified that he ignored it at first. The banging went on, though, until the teller grew suspicious. So he called the police.

Officers found the crowbar on the roof and DNA on it matched one of the suspects of the $200k heist.