Crime Profile: An Almost-Inside Bank Robbery

Feb. 10--Shackled hand and foot, Rolando Gonzalez sat in the Orange County Jail late Thursday, swearing he didn't come to Orlando to celebrate a $450,000 bank robbery.

"It's a mistake, a terrible, terrible mistake," said the man who loved three women, two of whom turned him in to the FBI. "I've never done anything wrong before, and now they say I've robbed a bank."

Arrested Tuesday evening, Gonzalez moves gingerly with surgical staples holding together bites that cover his arms and hands from the police dog that captured him.

"My only crime was carrying the money," he said of $125,000 stuffed into his backpack after the robbery. "My buddies used me."

According to an affidavit unsealed in Boston's federal courthouse Wednesday, the 31-year-old from Patillas, Puerto Rico, robbed a Lawrence, Mass., bank minutes after an armored car made its weekly cash delivery Jan. 31.

That morning, FBI agents say, Gonzalez and a partner -- wearing black ski masks and armed with handguns -- entered the TD Bank North in the city north of Boston and fled with a navy-blue duffel bag full of cash. It was an inside job, according to the affidavit, with information on when and how to rob the place coming from one of Gonzalez's girlfriends, who worked as a teller for the bank.

"She didn't have anything to do with it," Gonzalez said. But then he said he pumped teller Ana Cosme, 34, for details about cash deliveries to the bank at the request of a friend.

The friend is the same man Gonzalez claims was carrying more than $300,000 in cash and standing next to him Tuesday afternoon at Orlando's Amtrak station. That's when FBI agents jumped him, he said.

"I'm paranoid, so when this man came at me with a gun he scared me," he said, saying he ran one way when his buddy went another way with the cash.

Gonzalez refused to identify his buddy, saying he was afraid of him because he's a triggerman and assassin in Puerto Rico. He said the pair came first by bus from New York City, arriving Saturday. They were at the Amtrak station Tuesday looking for a train to reach Mexico, Gonzalez said.

The FBI would not say Thursday how agents tracked Gonzalez and the unnamed man to Orlando. Arrest records show the FBI called -Orlando police for help when Gonzalez bolted and outran several agents.

"I saw two additional FBI agents running behind Gonzalez, and I instructed them to stop," police K-9 Officer William Powell wrote in reports about what happened shortly before his dog, Jinx, captured Gonzalez on South Hughey Avenue.

Bitten first on the left forearm and knocked to the ground, Gonzalez is accused of trying to choke the police dog and crush its ribs in a leg lock before officers handcuffed him, reports show.

FBI interviews with bank employees in Massachusetts helped them narrow the search for Gonzalez.

A teller recognized one of the robbers' eyes as someone "who had been in the bank before to cash checks." Then the teller remembered that a co-worker who called right after the holdup had dated a "Rolando" who "may have a criminal record," according to the federal affidavit.

Questioned by agents, Cosme said she had been involved romantically with Gonzalez for two years. "I'm going to come clean and do the right thing for my kids," records quote her as saying.

Cosme, who has not been charged, talked about helping her lover use an alias to open an account at the bank so he could watch its operations.

"Gonzalez made several visits to the branch during the months preceding the robbery in order to conduct surveillance on the armored-car deliveries," wrote FBI agent Robert Rice of the Boston Violent Crimes Task Force in the affidavit. "On March 17, 2005, . . . an armored-car delivery was made while Gonzalez was at the teller counter, which allowed him to watch the entire delivery process, including the tellers counting the cash."

Cosme also told agents that Gonzalez was dating a 20-year-old clerk at a Sprint store in Lawrence while living with another woman, the mother of his 7-month-old son, records show.

The clerk, Paola Franco, told agents that on the night of the bank robbery an unknown man tapped on the store window and gave her $500 in $20 bills, which Gonzalez had promised to cover her rent. She gave the agents the numbers of two "secret telephones" she set up using an alias so that Gonzalez could use them without being tracked.

The only one of the three women who didn't say much was Yarilis Santiago, the mother of Gonzalez's son, records show.

Several weeks before the robbery, Gonzalez told her "something big" was going to happen and that he would take her to Puerto Rico, she told agents. On Feb. 2, Gonzalez called and told her to take a bus and meet him in New York City only to call her back and cancel the trip, saying the FBI was looking for him, records show.

"It's all lies," Gonzalez said in jail. "It's what the FBI tells them to make them talk."

Gonzalez is being held without bail in the Orange County Jail pending his return to Massachusetts to face federal bank-robbery charges.

Pedro Ruz Gutierrez can be reached at pruz@orlandosentinel.com or 407-420-5620. Henry Pierson Curtis can be reached at hcurtis@orlandosentinel.com or 407-420-5257.

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