Feds to prosecute NYC police officer

<div class="meta image-caption"><div class="origin-logo origin-image none"><span>none</span></div><span class="caption-text">Rookie officer Christian Torres, 21, had his New York Police Department badge and identification card on him when he was arrested, Muhlenberg Township police said.</span></div>
April 15, 2008 4:37:48 AM PDT
One day before he allegedly held up a Pennsylvania bank, a rookie New York City police officer donned a wig and asked a bank employee "uncomfortable" questions about the bank and its services, according to an FBI affidavit filed Monday.

Christian Torres, 21, evidently planned to rob the Sovereign Bank branch in Muhlenberg Township last Wednesday, but told investigators he "got cold feet" and went to a hotel to sleep before returning the following morning, the affidavit said.

Authorities said Torres forced bank employees into a vault at gunpoint before making off with $113,000. He was caught after the workers pointed out Torres to police responding to a silent alarm.

Federal prosecutors on Monday took over Torres' case from the Berks County district attorney's office, which plans to withdraw state robbery charges. Late Monday, prosecutors in New York filed charges against Torres in a pair of 2007 bank robberies he was suspected of being involved in.

The U.S. attorney's office in Philadelphia said it prosecutes nearly every bank robbery case over which it has jurisdiction, and that Torres' job did not come into play.

"It certainly is not every day that a police officer is charged with robbing a bank, but that really doesn't enter into our decision-making process," said David Webb, chief of violent crime in the U.S. attorney's office.

Police in New York have linked Torres to two other bank robberies last year in Manhattan. Torres was a police cadet when he allegedly robbed a Manhattan bank of $16,500 on June 8; he took $102,000 from the same bank about five months later, police said.

Torres, who joined the transit division in January, remained in jail on $1 million bail. His attorney was in court Monday and did not immediately return a phone message.

The FBI affidavit filed Monday said that Torres had confessed to the Pennsylvania heist.

It said that Torres, wearing a wig, hat, glasses and suit coat, had approached a bank employee in her car shortly after 8 a.m. last Wednesday, inquired about getting a mortgage, and asked her questions about the bank's operations.

"Because of the unusual nature of the subject's appearance and the fact the bank had not yet opened, the employee believed something was amiss," the affidavit said.

After the employee told Torres he was making her uncomfortable, he apologized and walked away, according to court documents.

He returned to the bank Thursday morning and tried following the customer service manager inside - prompting another employee to activate the alarm. Told the bank wasn't yet open, Torres brandished a handgun and said, "Are you sure?" the affidavit said.