Man charged in Scotiabank robbery makes first court appearance
Published: October 4, 2013
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ST. CROIX - Gilberto Serrano, the man arrested Wednesday morning shortly after police said he robbed Scotiabank and tried to make his getaway on a bicycle, made his initial appearance in V.I. Superior Court on Thursday morning.
Serrano, 27, of Morning Star was arrested at 10:15 a.m. Thursday - less than 15 minutes after the robbery.
At Serrano's hearing Thursday, Magistrate Miguel Camacho advised him of his rights on charges of first-degree robbery; unauthorized possession of a firearm; carrying or using a dangerous weapon during the commission of a crime of violence; and failure to report a firearm brought into the territory.
Camacho advised Serrano that if he is tried and convicted on the charges, he could face up to 35 years in prison.
According to the probable cause fact sheet filed by V.I. Police Detective Curreen Smith, one of the tellers at the bank reported to police that just before 10 a.m. Wednesday, Serrano walked into the bank, put a black plastic bag on the counter and told the teller to turn over all of her money.
The teller told police that as she looked at Serrano, she realized that he had a handgun tucked under his arm, but he did not take it out or threaten her with it. She said Serrano was pacing back and forth and said he was going to rob all of the banks on the island.
A second teller told police that Serrano was cursing in the bank as he waited for the teller to fill the bag of money and was yelling "My name is Serrano and I am going to rob all of the banks," and that he said he did not care if there are cameras in the bank.
He walked to the bank's bulk door, according to the teller, and banged on it, asking who had the keys. He walked around in the bank, then went back to the teller, picked up the bag of money then left the bank, according to Smith's affidavit.
Witnesses reported to police that Serrano was seen heading east, riding away from the bank on a bicycle with a handgun in one hand and a money bag in the other hand. He traveled through the Sunny Isle Annex parking lot, continuing north on Bennie Benjamin Drive.
Smith said word was given to emergency dispatchers, and they aired a description of Serrano, including the fact that he was wearing a red shirt and red pants and had either braids or locks in his hair.
An off-duty officer traveling in the area less than 10 minutes after the robbery saw Serrano on the road, realized he fit the description of the robbery suspect and gave chase, according to Smith's report.
Officers took Serrano into custody on Bennie Benjamin Road, near Ram's Auto Body Repair across from Queens Quarters residential area where his mother lives, completely blocking off the roadway and stalling traffic for close to 30 minutes.
Smith said when Serrano was taken into custody, he still was armed with a .38 special handgun with two live rounds and was carrying more than $6,000 in stolen bank cash.
Smith said Serrano waived his right to remain silent after he was taken into custody by police and admitted to being the person who walked into the bank with a gun, demanded the money and then left with the money.
She said Serrano told police that he had full knowledge of the bank's layout because he had worked there on several occasions, doing work on the bank's air-conditioning unit before he was laid-off earlier this year. He told police that after leaving the bank, he rode his bike up the road and left it under some bushes near Estate Strawberry, and was on his way home walking when he was stopped by the police officers.
Smith said in the report that when Serrano was asked why he robbed the bank, he said it was because he needed money so that he could leave the island.
On Thursday, about a dozen of Serrano's concerned family members sat in the courtroom to listen to the proceedings and offer assistance to get Serrano out of jail.
Defense attorney Yolan Brow Ross, made a motion for his release asking that he be released to the residential third-party custody of his grandmother with his father and aunt acting as additional supporting custodians in the case. She said the family is not in a position to post any surety on the bail but could provide supervision to ensure Serrano abides by all of the conditions of the court while on pre-trial release.
Assistant Attorney Melissa Ortiz objected, saying the bail should be fully secured because she believes he is a danger and a flight risk. She said if he is able to post bail, he should then be placed on 24-hour house arrest with the use of an electronic monitoring device.
Camacho said he was extremely concerned about the nature of Serrano's actions, and while they are mere allegations at this time, they are serious. He required Serrano to post the bail fully secured with $75,000 in cash or $150,000 worth of property. Camacho said that once Serrano is released, he will be placed on home confinement with the use of an electronic monitoring device.
The judge cautioned Serrano and his custodians that if he is released and violates any of the conditions while the case is pending, he would face a revocation of his bail and be held in pre-trial detention until the matter is disposed of.
- Contact reporter Fiona Stokes at 714-9149 or email firstname.lastname@example.org