It Was the Money that Got Away in Bank Heist

ELMWOOD PARK -- Perhaps discouraged by his unimpressive performance as a bank robber, James Sampson called it a day early Saturday and turned himself in to authorities, police said.

Police also announced the arrest of a woman who lives with Sampson who they say drove the getaway car.

Sampson, 24, of Paterson, showed up at police headquarters at 1:45 a.m. to answer charges that on Friday morning he donned a woman's wig, walked into the Wachovia Bank at 115 Broadway, brandished a 9mm handgun and made off with $1,385 in cash.

As Sampson ran from the bank north on Elizabeth Avenue, he allegedly dropped $1,195 in $5, $10 and $50 bills along the sidewalk, according to police.

Investigators recovered the cash -- approximately 86 percent of the money stolen -- that slipped through Sampson's fingers.

Sampson was charged with robbery, possession of a handgun and possession of a weapon for unlawful purposes, said Deputy Chief John Palmeri. He was being held in Elmwood Park awaiting a transfer to the Bergen County Jail, where he will be held on $1 million bail, Palmeri said.

Palmeri said Sampson did not give a reason for turning himself in.

But, he added, "He knew that we were looking for him."

Palmeri said Sampson's surrender followed an investigation by the Elmwood Park and Paterson police departments and the Passaic County Sheriff's Department.

About 20 minutes after the robbery, which took place at 10:55 a.m., Sheriff's Department officers Sgt. Joseph Muccio and Officer Raymond McCabe stopped a black 1999 Honda Passport on Park Avenue near East 32nd Street in Paterson, Palmeri said. Police had broadcast a description of the vehicle after a witness reported seeing a man later identified as Sampson getting into the car on the same block as the bank just after the incident.

Sampson had gotten out of the car before it was stopped in Paterson, but Muccio and McCabe arrested the driver, Heather Clifton, 25, who lives in the same Presidential Boulevard apartment as Sampson, Palmeri said.

Clifton was also charged with possession of a handgun and possession of a weapon for unlawful purposes and was being held in the Bergen County Jail on $100,000 bail, he said.

A passenger who was in Clifton's car during the stop was not involved with the incident, Palmeri said.


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