YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: A 51-year-old Westchester County woman arrested by the FBI in Atlantic City yesterday for taking at least $112,900 in cash at gunpoint from a Glen Rock bank while wearing a bright red wig two weeks ago and $13,000 from a bank in Greenwich, CT with a pixie-cut piece the month before is a former white-collar executive and bodybuilder who previously served time for robbing a bank 20 years ago.
The New York Post dubbed Michelle C. Cantatore of White Plains the “Buff Bod Bandit” after she was tracked down by the FBI in Miami in December 2001.
Authorities said Cantatore entered a Chase Bank branch in White Plains in 1995 and handed the teller a note that read: “Put all your money in the bag. I have a gun. Don’t look at me. Keep cool.” She sped off in a Camarao but was caught 15 minutes later after a dye pack exploded.
Cantatore was released after serving 18 months in prison, then was arrested by U.S. Postal Service inspectors in 2000 for stealing credit card numbers. After pleading guilty, she skipped bail and fled to Miami.
U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman said FBI agents grabbed Cantatore yesterday at the Borgata Hotel and Casino — as exclusively reported last night by CLIFFVIEW PILOT . A federal judge in Newark this afternoon ordered her held without bail.
Investigators were optimistic last week after they found an SUV that Cantatore had been driving registered to her father, Salvatore Cantatore, who lives in a short distance from her high-rise apartment in White Plains — and close to the Chase Bank that his daughter robbed a decade ago.
Yesterday it all came together in Atlantic City — where the New Jersey State PBA coincidentally was holding a mini-conference this entire week.
An FBI complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Newark says that Cantatore “demanded money and threatened to shoot and kill the [Glen Rock Savings Bank] employees if her demand was not met” the afternoon of Feb. 18.
When she wasn’t satisfied with the amount, the FBI said, “she directed the bank employees to enter the vault and give her more money.
“Surveillance camera footage shows a white mid-sized SUV leaving the area,” the bureau said.
It was a Cayenne Porsche registered to Cantatore’s father, the FBI complaint says. Records show she’d been stopped in it last May.
FBI agents confirmed that Cantatore used her cellphone in the area at 10:16 a.m. the day of the Glen Rock robbery, and then again at the Borgata at 6:35 p.m.
Surveillance photos show Cantatore “handing two large stacks of cash to the Borgata Casino cashier” at 6:53 p.m., it says.
She’s holding “a handbag similar to the bag used by the robber” in Glen Rock, the complaint says.
Yesterday’s arrest answered questions about her gender that were based on bank surveillance photos.
The FBI today also confirmed that Cantatore will be being charged in the Jan. 30 robbery of the Greenwich Bank and Trust Co. Her cellphone was used in the area that day, as well, the complaint says.
A quick review by CLIFFVIEW PILOT yesterday found three other female bank robberies in Connecticut in a span of less than two weeks after the Greenwich job:
The bandit in both the Glen Rock and Greenwich robberies was smallish (5-foot-5 to 5-foot-7), with a medium build, and wore similar white or tan boots, a long woman’s peacoat and dark gloves.
The bandit also pointed a long-barreled weapon — which Glen Rock police said was a paintball gun and Greenwich authorities called a sawed-off shotgun.
The FBI today confirmed that the weapon Glen Rock police recovered — as sources originally told CLIFFVIEW PILOT after it was found wedged against pole in a snowbank — was a paintball gun.
Greenwich police described the bandit as about 40. Glen Rock police didn’t use an age.
The robber’s hair in each differed: The Greenwich bandit had a dark pixie cut, as opposed to the long, intense red wig worn by the Glen Rock robber.
She was carrying what sources out of Glen Rock told CLIFFVIEW PILOT was a Louis Vuitton bag into which she stuffed $112,900 to $120,000 taken from the Rock Road bank’s vault last month.
Images captured from an ATM taken the morning of the Connecticut holdup nearly three weeks earlier show the suspected robber going into a Hudson City Savings Bank branch in the Cos Cob section of Greenwich, coming out and crossing the street to a People’s Bank branch and doing the same — apparently casing both banks.
Then came the Greenwich Bank and Trust holdup.
According to a Greenwich Police Department report:
“The pictured suspect, described as a white female, mid 40’s, 5’3”-5’5”, 100-115lbs., entered the bank with a gray Whole Foods shopping bag from New York.
“She then pulled out a sawed off shotgun from the bag and ordered the manager to the ground.
“The suspect then ordered the two tellers to put their hands on their heads and told one of them to retrieve the cash from both drawers.
“The suspect threatened to kill them if there were any dye packs in with the money.
“The suspect received approximately $13,000 in cash, fled the bank and ran towards I-95.”
No weapon was reported shown in the other three Connecticut bank robberies.
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