Cops close in on armored truck heist crooks

Authorities think they’ve identified the masked gunmen who pulled off a brazen armored truck heist outside a Mayfair bank last Thursday morning, although the culprits remain on the lam.

A law enforcement source told the Northeast Times that investigators from an FBI-led task force believe that the same robbers were also responsible for the heist of another armored car on Halloween outside a Holmesburg bank. Yet, investigators have ruled out a connection between the robbers and a fatal shooting on Newtown Avenue in Crescentville on Thursday afternoon, the source said.

The latest heist occurred at about 8:55 a.m. at TD Bank, 6635 Frankford Ave., when a Garda armored truck arrived to make a delivery. Two men with bandannas covering their faces confronted the truck’s two-man crew with semiautomatic rifles. The bandits grabbed bank bags containing about $105,000 cash and fled in a white minivan.

Police soon found the unoccupied minivan parked on the 6600 block of Tackawanna St., two blocks from the TD Bank. Witnesses told police that two men abandoned the vehicle and got into a waiting white Cadillac Escalade that appeared to have two additional men inside it.

According to a law enforcement source, federal agents and police already had developed information regarding suspects in a similar armored truck robbery at the Wells Fargo Bank, 8001 Frankford Ave., on Oct. 31 that netted the crooks about $310,000 cash. Investigators had linked the suspects to a rowhouse at 42nd and Pennsgrove streets in West Philadelphia.

In the hours after Thursday’s robbery, FBI agents raided the same West Philly rowhouse and encountered a woman, who left the scene in a red sedan, the source said. State police later spotted the sedan on the westbound Schuylkill Expressway, but lost her. FBI agents reportedly found bags of cash in the West Philadelphia rowhouse.

Meanwhile, Philadelphia police used license plate information to locate the Escalade at an apartment building on the 7900 block of Henry Ave. in Roxborough. The vehicle was registered to a car dealer, who reportedly told police that he had allowed a man to take the Escalade off of the sales lot in exchange for a promise of later payment. The dealer had installed a GPS transmitter in the vehicle pending payment.

As police were searching the Henry Avenue apartment building, the woman in the red sedan arrived at the scene, the source said. Officers questioned the woman and searched an unoccupied third-floor apartment, emerging with a large amount of cash.

After learning of last Thursday’s robbery, authorities immediately suspected a connection with the Oct. 31 robbery. In the earlier incident, robbers wore Scream masks and similarly ambushed a Garda truck crew outside the bank. The robbers fled in a minivan that they soon ditched on a nearby street and got into a second vehicle. No injuries were reported in either robbery.

Authorities released surveillance video of the earlier crime to the public, but disclosed little additional information about the investigation. ••