By Karen Zautyk
A serial bank robber, whose targets included a Bank of America branch in North Arlington, was sentenced last week to eight years in prison for eight holdups — and one attempted heist — during a 2010 crime spree.
Appearing in Federal Court in Trenton on Sept. 19, Nathaniel Barreto, 30, of Newark, was also sentenced to three years of supervised release and ordered to pay $112,515 in restitution.
The crime wave took root with the North Arlington robbery — for which Barreto was arrested by local police — but came into full bloom after he was freed from the Bergen County Jail on reduced bail just a short time later.
It was on the afternoon of March 26, 2010, when Barreto marched into the Bank of America at 119 Ridge Road. brandishing what appeared to be a large automatic handgun and demanded money from a teller.
He escaped with an undisclosed amount of cash, but less than two weeks later, on April 7, North Arlington cops had him in handcuffs.
Township detectives had identified the culprit and tracked him to Florida. He turned himself in to the North Arlington PD and was remanded to the county jail in lieu of $350,000 bail.
Sigh of relief. Brief sigh.
Barreto’s bail was reportedly reduced, and on April 22, he was freed.
Apparently, he took a two-month breather and then launched a five-county crime wave, including two holdups in a single day.
In addition to the North Arlington bank, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman reported, Barreto admitted to robbing, and attempting to rob, the following during the 2010 escapade:
June 25 — Wachovia Bank, 1080 Broad St., Bloomfield
July 8 — Mariner’s Bank, 242 Oradell Ave., Paramus
July 8 — Bank of America, 396 Route 22, Whitehouse
July 23 — Kearny Federal Savings, 487 Pleasant Valley Way, West Orange
July 28 — Lakeland Savings Bank, 321 Main St., Boonton
Aug. 2 — Bank of America, 32 Route 46, West Pine Brook
Aug. 4 –– Sovereign Bank, 541 Rahway Ave., Woodbridge
Aug. 9 — (attempted) PNC Bank, 424 Broad St., Bloomfield
Aug. 17 –– PNC Bank, 500 Route 10, Whippany
The Whippany robbery was the finale. A witness noted the license plate of the getaway car, a green Acura found abandoned about a half-mile away. Barreto and an accomplice were discovered in the nearby woods.
The accomplice turned out to be Barreto’s 20-year-old nephew, Juan Perez of Newark, who admitted driving the getaway car in both Whippany and in the attempted robbery in Bloomfield, authorities said.
In April of this year, Perez was sentenced to 45 months in prison.
During his spree, Barreto took to wearing a black stocking mask. But in North Arlington, despite a hooded jacket, hat and ski mask, his eyes and nose had been visible and he was clearly caught on security video.
Fishman cited the FBI, under the direction of Michael B. Ward in Newark, along with the Hanover Township Police Department, the Morris County Sheriff’s Office, the N.J. State Police and the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office for the investigation leading to the resolution of the case.
In October 2011, after Barreto entered his initial guilty plea in federal court, North Arlington Police Chief Louis Ghione also credited nowretired borough Det. James Gangi with “dogged police work” that helped authorities nab the bandit. Gangi “was monitoring bank robberies in the tri-state area” and saw that there were several with “a similar M.O.” to that of the local heist, the chief reported.