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Passaic County Pair Bagged $80,000 In Back-To-Back Bank Robberies

Two men nabbed by the FBI following bank robberies in Passaic and Little Falls just weeks apart were indicted by a federal grand jury in Newark.

Nicholas Ortiz, 37, of Paterson, and Jose Soto, 49, of Passaic, have remained in federal custody since their March arrests for robbing a PNC branch in Passaic of $35,000 and a Valley National Bank in Little Falls of $45,000.

One of them pointed a silver and black gun at customers and employees at the Main Street Valley National branch in Little Falls on Feb. 27, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito said.

The other then “jumped over a teller counter and began rifling through various drawers,” he said.

The robbers then forced the bank employees at gunpoint to open the vault before grabbing cash, forcing everyone into the vault and fleeing out the back door, Carpenito said.

Investigators identified Ortiz as the owner of the getaway car from that robbery, the U.S. attorney said, adding that they placed both mens’ cellphones in the vicinity.

Three weeks earlier, he said, two robbers wearing ski masks and holding umbrellas entered the PNC Bank at the corner of Broadway and Van Houten Avenue in Passaic and ordered everyone to get down on the floor, Carpenito said.

One pointed a silver and black handgun customers and employees, while the other jumped the counter and demanded that the teller turn over all cash in the drawers, he said.

Investigators identified Soto as the owner of the getaway car from that robbery, the U.S. attorney said. They also placed his phone in the area, he said.

The grand jury indictment handed up in U.S. District Court in Newark charges both men with two counts of bank robbery, conspiracy to commit bank robbery and “brandishing firearms in furtherance” of the holdups.

Carpenito credited special agents of the FBI, as well as police from Passaic and Little Falls, the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office, the Passaic County Sheriff’s Department, and the Paterson Police Department.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Emma Spiro is handling the case for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Newark.

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