Rookie NYPD cop linked to bank heists

April 12, 2008 1:37:22 PM PDT
To his supervisors, rookie police officer Christopher Torres was a "model cadet." He boasted a solid academic background, passed psychological screening and scored high marks in the academy, authorities said. But on Friday they said he was also something else: A repeat bank robber.

Torres, already charged in an armed bank heist in Pennsylvania, was linked by investigators to two other bank robberies last year in Manhattan, police said. Authorities said he later splurged on a new car and engagement ring.

Torres was serving as a police cadet when he robbed a Lower East Side bank of $16,500 with a threatening note on June 8, 2007, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly told reporters on Friday.

Investigators say that about five months later, Torres struck at the same bank using a fake handgun, this time while enrolled in the police academy. The take: $102,000.

The same day as the second holdup he put down $18,500 cash on a new car, police said. Sometime later he bought his girlfriend a diamond engagement ring - police did not know the cost - and paid off a $2,500 college loan.

Kelly called it a "shocking story," citing Torres' reputation as a "model cadet." Since being assigned to transit patrol in January, the Queens resident had made seven arrests, the commissioner said.

Torres, now 21, appeared to be "smart and hardworking, with tremendous potential," Kelly said.

Investigators allege that Torres admitted being involved in the earlier robberies while under questioning about the heist Thursday in northeast Pennsylvania.

Torres' Pennsylvania defense attorney, Paul Missan, said Friday that he didn't know the details of the New York allegations. Formal charges were pending.

Missan said his client was "a fine young man."

Police in Muhlenberg Township have accused Torres of using a real gun to force bank employees into a vault before stuffing $113,000 in large bills into a white shopping bag and fleeing in a car. He was caught after the employees pointed out the car to police responding to a silent alarm.

On Thursday, a judge in Pennsylvania doubled Torres' bail to $1 million after prosecutors revealed the suspected two-state robbery spree targeting three branches of Sovereign Bank. Berks County District Attorney John T. Adams described the case as "very unfortunate."

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Associated Press Writer Maryclaire Dale in Philadelphia contributed to this report.

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