Holy heist - burglars hit bank on Easter

Carol Verdi, Vice President of Educational Services at Angels on the Bay Evaluation Center, was woken up with a phone call first thing Monday morning, March 24 from employees at Sovereign Bank after the vault had been burglarized.
The bank workers had noticed water in the Howard Beach branch, and guessing its source, called Verdi, whose office is directly next door. A Levittown, Long Island resident, Verdi immediately headed to the store on Cross Bay Boulevard.
“We couldn’t get access,” she said. “They did let us take a look from the front door. All you could see was water.”
Verdi waited until about 8 or 8:30 that evening to be let in.
“It was just a mess, a big mess,” she said of what brazen robbers had done.
According to reports, the unidentified thieves broke into Sovereign’s vault over the Easter weekend by boring through a concrete wall inside Verdi’s office space.
Police believe they gained access to the Center, which provides assessments of young children between the ages of three and five regarding disabilities and special services needs, through a key obtained in an earlier break-in.
Once inside, the perps hung a shower curtain to conceal their doings and clogged the Center’s sink.
Water overflowing, it is believed the bank’s alarm system was shorted out.
“We didn’t have any alarm,” Verdi said. “In the 14 years I’ve been here, we’ve never had anything like this happen. You kind of get lulled into that false sense of security.”
“Some safety deposit boxes were damaged, but the majority were not,” said Mike Armstrong, spokesperson for Sovereign Bank.
“The flooding was at the north side of the branch, adjacent to the vault,” he continued, explaining to The Queens Courier that the bank was open during normal hours both Friday, March 21 - Good Friday - and Saturday, March 22.
“Because of the water situation, we called in the evidence recovery team,” said Matthew Bertron, spokesperson for the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI). “They have special equipment and ways of recovering evidence so that the water doesn’t compromise it.”
Published reports claim that the thieves, who had to bore through a second concrete wall to get to the vault, made off with upwards of $400,000 in cash and valuables, but Armstrong could not confirm this.
“It’s a very unique robbery,” said Police Officer Kenneth Zorn, Community Affairs for the 106th Precinct.
On Tuesday, March 25, customers with banking business were diverted to Sovereign’s 101st Avenue location in Richmond Hill.
In the meantime, Sovereign took up two rooms at the nearby Russo’s on the Bay, whose owner, Frank Russo, also owns the real estate that includes the bank and the Center.
Sovereign employees from Howard Beach as well as the branch manager met with concerned customers.
Armstrong said that as of Wednesday, March 26, the bank was expected to be open for business as usual.
“We are busting our chops trying to open at regular hours - 8:30 a.m.,” he said. “We have a special team in place that will be meeting with these customers.”
Luckily for Verdi, she believes that the repairs and replacement equipment, furniture and toys will be covered under the Center’s insurance.
“People don’t realize, in here was my vault - 26 years worth of pictures of children who have come through here,” Verdi said, pointing to a closet that was wrecked in the robbery.

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