By Karen Zautyk
Local banks suffered a one-two punch last week when both a Chase Bank in Kearny and a Valley National Bank in Harrison were robbed within three days, apparently by different bandits.
The latest crimes bring to four the number of bank robberies in West Hudson since late December.
Last Tuesday, Jan. 28, at 9:48 a.m., an individual wearing a black jacket, gray hat and purple scarf entered the Chase facility at 11 Kearny Ave. and passed a note to a teller demanding money, which he wanted in “large denominations,” Kearny Police Chief John Dowie reported.
Tuesday was one of those bone-chillingly cold days, so someone so bundled up that only their eyes were visible would not necessarily arouse suspicion, even in a bank. Dowie said it was initially difficult to tell if the robber was male or female, but it is now believed the culprit was a Hispanic man in his 30s.
Police said the robber threatened to shoot the teller if his demands were not met but he never displayed a weapon. There were at least six employees and two customers in the bank at the time.
After obtaining approximately $7,000 in cash, the robber fled on foot, west on Johnston Ave. toward Maple St., police said.
The Harrison heist occurred at 1:30 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 30, at the Valley National Bank, 433 Harrison Ave., near S. Fifth St.
Harrison police said the suspect in that robbery was a Hispanic female, wearing gloves, sunglasses, a hat and a hood.
Police said the woman handed a teller a note demanding $3,000 and claiming she was armed — but, again, no gun was seen. There reportedly were seven employees but only one other customer in the bank.
As the teller began to gather the cash, the robber spoke to her in Spanish, telling her to hurry up, police said. The robber fled with $2,700.
Harrison police said investigation later revealed that she entered a cab several blocks away and was driven to Newark.
For the Chase Bank in Kearny, it was the second heist in little over a month, the first occurring on Christmas Eve. Kearny police and FBI agents subsequently arrested suspect Donald Myer, 56, at his Newark home. Myer was said to be a former Kearny resident.
Police said Myer had entered the bank shortly after it opened the morning of Dec. 24, demanded $3,000 in $50 bills, and then fled with the cash, running west on Johnston.
On Jan. 10, at 9:08 a.m., the Valley National Bank at Frank E. Rodgers Blvd. and Sherman Ave. in East Newark was hit, and the robber, described as a dark-complexioned Hispanic man, escaped on foot with $1,100. Police are still hunting him.
As in last week’s crimes, both the robbers in the earlier Chase and Valley National incidents said they were armed, but no weapons were displayed, authorities noted.
A sidelight to the Myer case: According to published reports, when he was arraigned by the Central Judicial Processing court via video link from his Hudson County Jail cell, Myer offered to take a lie detector test. His alibi? He reportedly told the judge he could not have committed the Kearny robbery since, on the day it occurred, he did not leave his house until 4 p.m. because he had been in bed with his wife, having sex.