Elizabeth Man Arrested For Alleged Conspiracy To Rob Bank

ELIZABETH – A TD Bank employee from Elizabeth was arrested Thursday on charges he conspired to commit bank robbery, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.

Jelani Bustamonte, 23, who works at the Westfield, branch of TD Bank, was arrested by FBI agents at his home in Elizabeth on Jan. 26.

According to the criminal complaint, At 2:21 p.m. on Sept. 11, 2011, an individual entered the TD Bank located at 560 North Avenue East, Westfield, and passed a deposit slip across the counter to a bank teller. The bank teller, who was in the process of counting cash at the counter, did not see the handwriting on the note or any monetary amount listed, and attempted to return the slip back to the person. The individual pushed the paper slip back across the counter and ordered the teller to “read it.” The teller read the handwritten note, which stated, “I want all the money lo[o]se bills.”

The teller stepped back upon reading the demand note. The bank robber then reached over the counter, took the cash that the teller had been counting at the counter. The bank’s video surveillance camera recorded the entire incident and captured images of the bank robber.

Between September and December 2011, seven additional bank robberies occurred at TD Bank locations throughout New Jersey. On Dec. 28, 2011, a suspect in the TD Westfield location was charged with the robbery of the Rahway branch of TD Bank on Nov. 19, 2011.

According to the investigation, the alleged bank robber exchanged text messages in November and December 2011 with Bustamonte. In these text messages, the two allegedly discussed when and how the vault of the Westfield branch could be robbed. Bustamonte is accused of giving the bank robber information about the amount of money inside the vault, when the vault would be replenished and/or filled, that certain employees possessed the codes necessary to open the vault, the protocol for opening the vault, and the time of day when the vault would be opened. The bank robber also allegedly asked Bustamonte whether he had access to a BB gun.

Bustamonte told law enforcement he discussed robbing the vault with the alleged bank robber and others, authorities said. He said he advised the bank robber to go with one other person to rob the vault, and that the robber agreed to give Bustamonte up to $50,000 of the money from the vault, according to authorities. Bustamonte said he discussed with the robber the layout of the Westfield branch, and other information, including that he should ask for “loose bills” and not strapped money, authorities said. He also said he was working at the bank the day it was robbed and recognized the bank robber, but did not disclose his identity to bank personnel or law enforcement, according to authorities.

The charge of criminal conspiracy carries a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

Fishman credited special agents of FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Michael B. Ward; the Union County Prosecutor’s Office under the direction of Prosecutor Theodore J. Romankow; and the Westfield Police Department, under the direction of Chief John Parizeau, with the investigation leading to the arrest.

Bustamonte is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in court.

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