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Friday, April 11, 2008

Rookie NYPD cop busted in $113G Pennsylvania bank heist


An NYPD rookie sworn to enforce the law broke it big-time Thursday, stealing $113,000 from a Pennsylvania bank at gunpoint, authorities said. Cop-turned-robber Christian Torres, 21, of Queens, was collared less than a block away and the loot was recovered, police said.

"I can't believe it happened," said Chris Salcedo, 20, a neighbor who plays football with Torres every week. "He talked a lot about being a cop. He said he wanted to do good stuff for people." The bizarre caper unfolded when the transit officer, dressed in a black suit, marched into the Muhlenberg Sovereign Bank just after opening and flashed a silver Glock handgun, cops said.

He demanded that tellers take him to the vault, where he stuffed a white plastic CVS bag with piles of bills ranging from $10s to $100s, authorities said. During the heist, an employee tripped an alarm, and police arrived as Torres, who had joined the NYPD last July, walked out and hopped into his black Toyota Scion, cops said.

When officers pulled him over moments later, he told them he was a New York City police officer, authorities said. He had the bag of cash on the seat and the gun tucked into his waistband, police said. Torres, who lives in Woodhaven and got engaged earlier this month, was held in the Berks County Jail on $500,000 bail. Bucolic Muhlenberg is about 120 miles west of New York City, near Reading, Pa. The bank is on Muhlenberg's commercial strip.

According to his MySpace page, Torres is an avid in-line skater whose nickname is "The Law." He lists his profession as "OINK" and his income as $30,000 to $45,000, even though rookie cops make just $25,100. His mood on his Web site is "wanted." "No matter what they say, we are getting a lot of losers," said a disgusted NYPD housing officer with 15 years on the force. "Anyone with any other options is taking another job. What's left are thugs and gangbangers who then get busted."

Torres is the latest in a string of young cops charged with crimes - often to pad their paychecks. Many rank-and-file officers have complained that the Police Academy has lowered its standards as the starting pay has dropped. Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly has denied that, saying recruits are now better educated and more diverse. But in the past two years, at least four cops have been charged with felonies. In July 2006, NYPD recruit Kabeer Din tried to hire an undercover cop posing as a hit man to kill his girlfriend.

Officers Hector Alvarez and Miguel Castillo told New Jersey police they were investigating terrorism when they were caught trying to rob a Bergen County drug den in May 2007, cops said. Four months later, NYPD recruit Claribel Polanco, a mother of two, allegedly committed welfare fraud. Too poor to pay his electric bill, Officer Patrick Venetek of Brooklyn was cleaning his gun in the dark when it accidentally went off in February. The bullet struck an 18-month-old boy in the apartment below. -with Alison Gendar and Kerry Burke in New York and Edgar Sandoval in Muhlenberg, Pa.

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