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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of New Jersey

Monday, October 16, 2017

Two Women Charged With Robbing Bergen County Bank

NEWARK, N.J. – Two women appeared in federal court today to face allegations that they robbed a Spencer Savings Bank in Garfield, New Jersey, at gunpoint, Acting U.S. Attorney William E. Fitzpatrick announced.

Swahilys Pedraza-Rodriguez, 19, of New Haven, Connecticut, and Melisa Aquino Arias, 23, of Passaic, New Jersey, are charged by complaint with one count of bank robbery. Both defendants made their initial appearances this afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Joseph A. Dickson in Newark federal court and were detained.

According to the complaint:

On Sept. 27, 2017, Pedraza-Rodriguez and Arias allegedly entered a Spencer Savings Bank in Garfield and asked a bank teller for information about opening a bank account. Soon after, Arias, who was wearing a blue hijab, took out a black handgun and demanded money, while Pedraza-Rodriguez stood guard by the bank manager. After a bank teller handed them some cash, the defendants left the bank, and employees immediately alerted the police. Law enforcement officers responded to the scene, but did not immediately locate the robbers.  

On Oct 15, 2017, Pedraza-Rodriguez and Arias allegedly entered an NVE Bank in Teaneck, New Jersey. Arias wore an orange hijab and Pedraza-Rodriguez wore a black head covering.  They approached a bank employee and requested information about opening a bank account. The employee recognized the women as the alleged perpetrators of the Garfield bank robbery. As the employee went to alert the police, the women left the bank. Pedraza-Rodriguez and Arias were apprehended soon after by law enforcement officers.  

The bank robbery count carries a maximum potential penalty of up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense.

Acting U.S. Attorney Fitzpatrick credited special agents with the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Timothy Gallagher in Newark; the Garfield Police Department, under the direction of Chief Raymond Kovach; the Teaneck Police Department, under the direction of Chief Glenn M. O'Reilly; and the Leonia police department, under the direction of Chief Thomas P. Rowe, with the investigation leading to the charges. 

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Joshua L. Haber of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Criminal Division in Newark.

The charge and allegations contained in the complaint are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Defense counsel:

Pedraza-Rodriguez: K. Anthony Thomas Esq., Assistant Federal Public Defender, Newark
Arias: Julian Wilsey Esq., Livingston, New Jersey

Press Release Number: 
Updated October 16, 2017