Two roommates motivated by drug addiction have been nabbed for their roles in nine recent bank robberies in Nassau and Suffolk that netted at least $29,000, according to police and court documents.
Adam Baron, 18, and Jamie Ramirez, 25, both of Melville, were arrested at 5:10 p.m. Wednesday outside their home at the Avalon Apartments. They are accused of pulling off six bank robberies and one attempted bank robbery in Nassau between Dec. 26 and Jan. 28, police said. Nassau police said the two committed three Suffolk bank robberies, but Suffolk police declined to provide details.
"We believe this was drug-fueled," Det. Sgt. John Giambrone, commander of Nassau's Robbery Unit, said at a news conference at Nassau police headquarters in Mineola.
Giambrone said investigators connected the robberies because of the "exact wording in each one of the . . . [demand] notes," and worked with the Suffolk police Pattern Crimes Unit, which had been monitoring Farmingdale-area hotels and motels to try and catch the pair.
The two pleaded not guilty at their arraignments Thursday in First District Court in Hempstead. Ramirez was ordered held on $2 million cash bail or bond; Baron on $1.5 million.
Baron's attorney, Matthew Tuohy of Hauppauge, said his client is in a GED program, works construction and hasn't before been in trouble with the law. Asked about the drug allegations, Tuohy said: "I have been told by family and friends that he does have a substance abuse issue," but added he hadn't independently verified that claim. Ramirez's Legal Aid attorney declined to comment. The men return to court Monday.
Newsday Thursday chronicled an uptick in bank robberies on Long Island -- 22 this month. An hour after the news conference, a man entered a Wells Fargo Bank in Hempstead and demanded cash, police said. He said he had a gun and left with cash.
During the investigation, Suffolk police received Crime Stoppers tips that they passed on to Nassau police, who arrested the two as they arrived home in a rented pickup truck.
Police did not find any drugs on the two but said investigators believe the two used "heroin and other drugs."
Baron doesn't have a criminal record, but Giambrone said Ramirez was charged with the robbery of an East Meadow jewelry store in 2008. Online court records show he was charged with robbery and attempted robbery in 2008 and pleaded guilty on the attempted robbery charge and was sentenced to 2 years in prison.
Police said they believe that when one robbed a bank, the other would act as a lookout and drive the getaway car. Baron was charged with five counts of second-degree robbery and one count of second-degree attempted robbery. Ramirez was charged with two counts of second-degree robbery, third-degree robbery and second-degree attempted robbery.
Baron was charged in the Dec. 26 robbery of the Bethpage Federal Credit Union on Old Country Road in Westbury, the TD Bank branch on Merrick Road in Rockville Centre on Jan. 13 and the Chase Bank branch on Main Street in Farmingdale Tuesday, netting a haul of $12,104.
Ramirez was charged with robbing the Chase Bank branch on Bellmore Avenue in North Bellmore on Jan. 17. He got away with $11,293, court records allege. Both are accused of, on Jan. 23, robbing a Chase Bank in Plainview and a Roslyn Savings Bank in Merrick and trying to rob a Chase Bank in Merrick.
Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, who also attended the news conference, said both departments did "excellent jobs."
"It's a load off my mind," Giambrone said of the arrests. "When it's active, there's a lot of pressure to solve them."
With John Valenti