Heist suspect's post: 'IM RICH'
Boasts on Facebook lead feds to the arrest of 4 in Houston bank robbery
April 21, 2011, 9:26PM
It would take a little over a week and a Crime Stoppers tip before investigators unraveled the plot twist behind the March 23 robbery of the International Bank of Commerce on Eldridge Parkway.
What looked on surveillance video to be a classic bank robbery — with armed, masked suspects and terrorized bank tellers — turned out to be an amateurish inside job, allegedly orchestrated by two 19-year-old tellers with the help of a boyfriend and an older brother.
Using an incriminating trail of Facebook posts left by Martinez and her 18-year-old boyfriend, Ricky "Ricko Gee" Gonzalez, detectives arrested four suspects this week on bank theft charges, alleging they made off with $62,000.
Their Facebook pages held not-so-subtle clues: Two days after the robbery, Martinez posted: "IM RICH …" followed by a rhyming expletive.
"WIPE MY TEETH WITH HUNDEREDS …" her boyfriend allegedly posted the day after the heist. He also boasted of wiping another part of his anatomy with $50 bills.
A lesson to be learned
An attorney for Martinez, Richard Kuniansky, described his client as "young and immature," suggesting there is a lesson in her current predicament.
"I've always heard that you shouldn't post pictures of yourself on Facebook smoking pot or drinking because employers are now looking at Facebook pages," he said. "But I never knew there should be a warning not to post about a bank robbery that's been committed."
The Facebook posts by Martinez and Gonzalez about the bank heist were part of a criminal complaint unsealed in Houston federal court this week.
Authorities allege Martinez and teller Anna Margarita Rivera started planning the bank heist at 1545 Eldridge Parkway about a month in advance. Rivera told investigators that she was working at the same bank during a robbery on Nov. 17 and "believed staging the robbery would be easy" since she'd never heard of anyone being arrested in connection with that theft.
Martinez enlisted Gonzalez, and Rivera recruited her brother, 22-year-old Arturo Solano, according to the complaint.
The tellers told investigators that they made sure they were the only ones working during the robbery. Wearing plastic masks purchased from a dollar store, Gonzalez and Solano entered the bank about 5:45 p.m. and jumped over the teller counter, demanding money, according to investigators. While one suspect cleaned out the cash drawers, the other took Martinez and Rivera to the vault.
Martinez and Rivera took steps to make the robbery look legitimate. They included tracking devices in the money bags, instructing Gonzalez and Solano to ditch them right away, investigators said. One of the suspects left behind his gun, which turned out to be plastic.
'Trying to be funny'
The celebratory Facebook posts started shortly after they divided the loot at Rivera's apartment, officials say.
"U HAVE TO PAST THE LINE SOMETIMES!! TO GET DIS MONEY!!" Gonzalez posted on his Facebook page the day after the theft.
Lance Craig Hamm, an attorney for Gonzalez, said his client was not talking about the robbery on his Facebook page. "He literally was just talking, trying to have fun, trying to be funny," Hamm said.
Two days after the heist, Martinez posted about being "RICH." Kuniansky said Martinez is a single mother and had plans to go to college. Now she faces up to 10 years in prison, he said.
An attorney for Rivera could not be reached for comment. No attorney was listed in federal court records for Solano.
A Facebook page for "Ricko Gee" Gonzalez of Houston was still up as of Thursday evening. Under employer, it read: "Make money both ways Dirty and Clean!!
Law enforcement tool
It's not just tech-savvy, big-city types like the FBI-led Houston Area Bank Robbery Task Force that use Facebook as a law enforcement tool. In March, Texas Parks and Wildlife Game wardens used it to track down the killer of an 11½-foot alligator in Bastrop County.
Andy Kahan, the city of Houston's crime victim advocate, said he was tipped off about a Facebook page on which a probationer, who wasn't supposed to be drinking, posted photos of himself holding bottles of liquor and beer and an open invitation to a party featuring "trash can punch."
One post read: "Probation on the 23rd - party's gotta be moved - sorry folks. On the upside, that just means more time to plan."
Kahan said he contacted the probation department and said: "I've got a gift-wrapped delivery for you."
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