WEST LONG BRANCH – Nearly five years ago, police responded to a silent alarm and learned that a bandit had climbed through a ceiling vent and got away with about $700,000 from a safe. unlocked box inside a check cashing business in West Long Branch, New Jersey.
More than three years passed before an anonymous witness told a detective previously unknown details of the robbery, including the name of the person who carried it out and that he and two others helped the bandit to conceal it.
Fast forward nearly two years, and Acting Monmouth County District Attorney Raymond S. Santiago announced Friday that the alleged thief has been arrested.
Travis A. Bryant, 41, of Jackson, New Jersey, was arrested and charged with robbery, burglary and possession of a fake handgun, Santiago said.
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The charges stem from a burglary on Nov. 2, 2017, when West Long Branch police received a report around 9 a.m. that a silent alarm had been activated at a check cashing business on Route 36, according to a press release from the prosecutor’s office. .
Police then learned that a man wearing sunglasses and a hoodie tight around his face entered the business when no customers were present and used a ladder to gain access and climb through ceiling ducts to a secure area for employees where cash was stored in an unlocked safe. , the statement said.
After the man fell through the ceiling, he ordered the only employee down. When she refused, he gestured at her sweatshirt, leading the employee to believe he had a gun, leading her into a bathroom, according to a probable cause affidavit to charge Bryant with the crimes. .
The employee came out of the bathroom shortly after and saw the bandit fleeing in a white work van, he said. She gave police a description of the bandit and told them that $700,000 had been stolen from the safe, which was usually kept unlocked in the secure employee area, according to the affidavit. The culprit also stole the employee’s cell phone and purse, according to the affidavit.
Due to the large amount of money involved, an FBI special agent was assigned to assist the West Long Branch police in the investigation. They “conducted a thorough and extensive follow-up investigation spanning approximately two years, which included interviews with numerous potential suspects, but found negative results,” the affidavit states.
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After more than two years had passed, Howell, New Jersey Police Detective Anthony Romano was off duty on December 28, 2020, when he was contacted by someone with whom he had a personal relationship, according to the affidavit. Romano met the person in a capacity unrelated to his detective work. That’s when the person, identified in the affidavit as Witness #1, “provided Detective Romano with specific details not known to law enforcement or the public about the robbery,” including how it was planned and executed and that Bryant was the only person who planned and committed, according to the affidavit.
Witness No. 1 also provided Romano with details of the steps taken by him and two other people, identified in the affidavit as Witness No. 2 and Witness No. 3, to cover up the crime, the affidavit states. .
Romano immediately reported the details of his encounter with Witness #1 to his direct supervisor at the Howell Police Department as well as the FBI agent, who then contacted Witness #2 and Witness #3. , according to the affidavit. These anonymous witnesses acknowledged their actions in assisting Bryant after the robbery, according to the affidavit.
“It should be noted that the details provided by the three witnesses show that they were not involved in the planning or commission of the theft,” the affidavit reads. “However, assistance was provided by witnesses in hiding the stolen money, destroying evidence (including an imitation firearm) and altering the appearance of Travis Bryant’s work van that he took. used when stealing commission.”
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In late September, a detective from the Monmouth County District Attorney’s Office assisted the FBI agent in taking formal, typed statements from the three unnamed witnesses, according to the affidavit. Their statements were corroborated by facts obtained during the initial investigation, including a statement obtained from the victim, according to the affidavit.
Neither the affidavit nor the press release mentioned any charges against the three unnamed witnesses or explained the nearly two-year lapse between when Witness #1 first contacted Detective Howell. and the time detectives took official statements from the three and subsequently arrested Bryant.
Bryant is being held in the Monmouth County Jail, pending a first court appearance and a detention hearing to determine whether he will continue to remain in jail without bond while awaiting trial in the case.