Rochester, N.Y. -- Investigators say four people are responsible for a string of at least five bank robberies, and maybe more.
Led by a parolee, the group struck all over Monroe County. They were caught only after a tip led them to the home of one of the men.
He was caught red handed.
“We got a tip from a citizen that a man with red dye on his hands was over at the Cadillac Motel in the City of Rochester,” says Captain Dave Inzana of the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department. “That led us to the others.”
Captain Inzana says Jeffrey Bliss was the ring leader. He was released on parole for bank robbery in August, but by September police say he was at it again. “He was the one that was steering these other people in what to do,” says Inzana.
Five banks in two weeks beginning September 22, 2012. Even with images taken from security cameras police did not initially connect the cases - because in each case a different suspect, sometimes wearing a different disguise, went inside.
The security photo from the Chase Bank branch in Fairport appears to be suspect Anthony Way wearing a wig.
Yet it was a tip about another suspect, Israel Romero, that cracked the cases. Police say the group struck twice on Tuesday in East Rochester and Penfield. It’s alleged at the second location it was Romero’s turn to go inside.
Police say he got away with some money and a little surprise. An exploding pack of red dye that police say was better than a confession. "We were able to take him into custody and through that we were ultimately able to come up with three more suspects,” says Captain Inzana.
Romero, Bliss, Way and Sarah Cooney have been charged with second degree robbery. Other charges are pending and the FBI is now looking at unsolved bank jobs in the area.
As for the tip that led to the arrest, investigators say it made all the difference. “It was really important. Normally we would not solve these so quickly,” says Inzana.