Dye-stained cash leads to alleged bank robber

Published: Friday, April 17, 2009
By Rachael Scarborough King Register Staff

NORTH BRANFORD — A man who robbed a Citizens Bank branch is in custody, police say, thanks in part to his attempt to launder the dye-stained cash at a North Haven carwash.

Jonathan Walker, 28, of North Branford, faces charges of first-degree robbery and third-degree larceny for his alleged involvement in the crime.

On March 25, Walker allegedly entered the Citizens Bank on Foxon Road and passed a teller a note indicating that he had a weapon and demanding cash. He then left on foot with an undisclosed amount of money, police said.

Surveillance cameras caught him as he left, showing a dye pack exploding on the money, but police were not able to track the man down by circulating his picture to local media, police departments, probation and parole officers and court clerks.

About a week after the robbery, the owner of the Buggy Car Wash in North Haven deposited at a local bank about $500 in $10 bills that were dyed orange and red, according to police. A North Haven police sergeant was in the bank at the time, and, remembering that there was a recent bank robbery in North Branford, contacted police there.

North Branford detectives then obtained security footage from the carwash that showed a woman and a man who fit the description of the bank robber changing $10 bills into coins using a coin machine. A video camera from a business across the road also captured the suspects’ car, a silver Hyundai Elantra hatchback from 2004 to 2006, but the license plate number was not visible.

Detectives Ronald Onofrio and Kenneth McNamara obtained a list of all the vehicles in Connecticut matching that description from the state Department of Motor Vehicles, but later the same day, April 8, Officer James Lovelace stopped a silver Hyundai Elantra on Route 80 in North Branford. The female driver of the car resembled the woman from the carwash, police said.

The next morning, police went to the woman’s address — about half a mile from the site of the bank robbery — and found her and Walker, both matching the people in the video footage taken from the car wash.

The suspects at first said they had found a bag of money on Sea Hill Road, but later admitted to participating in the robbery, according to police.

Walker was arrested on an outstanding warrant for violation of probation, and served with an arrest warrant for the bank robbery while being arraigned on the probation charge Thursday, police said. In 2007, he pleaded guilty to fourth-degree larceny, according to court records. He was being held in lieu of $350,000 bail and is due in court Monday, according to the court.

Police did not identify the woman allegedly involved, pending her arrest.

Police said they believe the money was spent on drugs. After changing $10 bills into coins at the car wash, the suspects allegedly took the coins to a Stop & Shop and changed them back into cash using a Coinstar machine, Police Chief Matthew Canelli said.

“They went from dollar bills to coins, from coins to dollar bills again,” he said.

Canelli called the investigation “the best police work I’ve seen in a good long time.”

“It’s 90 percent of great, great police work and 10 percent of luck,” he said. “The North Haven sergeant happened to be at the right place at the right time and broke it open for us.”

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