FBI arrests Newark man wanted in 8 bank robberies that netted $50K

By Tom Wright-Piersanti/The Star-Ledger 

Andrew Thomas, allegedly seen above in surveillance footage from a robbery in Cranford, was charged with eight bank robberies today. (Cranford police)


For the past year, Andrew Thomas made a living robbing banks, federal authorities say.

The Newark man allegedly hit eight banks across four counties in 10 months, and his exploits earned him nearly $50,000, according to a complaint filed today in U.S. District Court.

Thomas, 32, surrendered to authorities Wednesday after FBI agents used surveillance footage from a robbery in Hillside to trace the getaway car to his girlfriend’s home, according to the complaint.

Thomas now faces eight counts of bank robbery, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman said. His girlfriend Jennifer Pinto, 32, is being charged with conspiracy in two of the robberies for driving him from the scene.

The string of robberies began Nov. 20, 2012, when Thomas allegedly entered the Wells Fargo on Broad Street in Newark dressed in dark clothing and wearing black baseball cap and handed the teller a note saying he had a gun. He escaped with $9,000, authorities said.

Thomas attempted to rob that same bank again on July 30, according to authorities, though that time the teller fled and Thomas left empty-handed.

Between November 2012 and September 2013, according to the complaint, he robbed banks in Newark, Cranford, Edison, Woodbridge, Clark, Watchung and Hillside. In all, he is alleged to have stolen $49,685.50.

His method was usually the same, the complaint said: Thomas would enter the bank in the early afternoon, dressed in black or blue clothing and a black ball cap. He would walk swiftly to the counter, demand money, then leave as quickly as he came in.

On a few occasions, he brandished a black handgun, authorities said. In Woodbridge, he allegedly told the teller, “Give me all your large!” In Watchung, he held out a plastic bag and yelled, “Fill it up!”

The FBI went public with its investigation in August, releasing photos from the seven robberies he was suspected in and asking for help in identifying him.

He resurfaced Wednesday when authorities announced he was the suspect in a morning robbery of the Lusitania Savings Bank in Hillside. It was there that police spotted Pinto’s silver Chevy Equinox leaving the scene after the robbery, according to the complaint.

The FBI traced the car to her parents’ home - they did not say where the parents live - where agents found Pinto and brought her in for questioning. She told them that Thomas, her boyfriend, was the man responsible for the robberies, and that she drove the getaway car in two of them, authorities said.

Thomas surrendered later that day, according to authorities. He told police he was responsible for robbing the banks, and identified himself in the surveillance photos, the complaint said.

Authorities said that inside Pinto's home, they recovered a black toy gun and shirts that match those seen in the surveillance footage.

Thomas made his first appearance in U.S. District Court in Newark today, where he faced eight bank robbery charges that each carry a maximum penalty of 20 years. Pinto was also arrested and charged, though she was later released on $100,000 bond.

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