PROVIDENCE R.I. (WPRI) — On the night of the heist, the vault timer wasn’t set. Employees weren’t supposed to have the entire security code needed to enter the locked room. And there was an unusually large amount of cash in the bank.
Court records and interviews with people with direct knowledge of the investigation are shedding new light on a brazen heist in June from a Santander Bank on Federal Hill, where thieves made off with nearly a half-million dollars in cash.
Three people have now been charged for their alleged involvement in the heist, one of whom was an employee at the bank. The vast majority of the money is still missing.
‘Not a normal practice’
In the early stages of the investigation into the June 29 larceny inside the Santander branch at 280 Atwells Ave., detectives were growing more confident the heist was an inside job. An affidavit for a search warrant obtained by Target 12 shows security camera footage from inside the bank gave investigators early clues about the suspects’ identities.
Two people were seen entering the building, both decked out in black clothes and masks. One of them stood out to the bank’s security manager: the suspect had “similarities in height and body type” to the bank’s operations manager, Tracey Delgado.
“It should be noted that while watching the surveillance video, particularly the opening of the vault with the combination code,” Detective Sean Brown wrote in the affidavit, “the person opening the vault manipulated the vault using the code with no difficulty then opened the locked door and then put down the ramp seamlessly.”
Then there was the timer.
The security manager told police the vault’s timer was not set that evening, “allowing the vault to be opened” during the overnight hours, “which is not a normal practice.”
While the evidence was pointing to a bank employee as a suspect, no single worker should have the full code to the vault, according to the affidavit. The security manager said employees only have half codes, with one exception: the bank’s “vault custodian.”
In reviewing the surveillance video, investigators found the main suspect – now identified as Delgado – used the vault custodian’s codes to access the building, suggesting she did the same to get into the vault.
The court records do not reveal how police think Delgado, 31, allegedly obtained the codes.
Santander Bank told Target 12 on Friday that Delgado is no longer affiliated with the bank.
“We continue to assist law enforcement in their investigation of this matter. As this remains an active investigation, we will continue to refer all other questions to law enforcement,” bank officials said.
A bag full of currency
Shortly after the heist, Providence detectives interviewed Delgado at police headquarters. She told them she and two other employees locked up the bank that night, then joined her boyfriend – Stanley Palmer – at the Texas Roadhouse in North Smithfield to celebrate his daughter’s birthday. Delgado told detectives she and Palmer, 42, were back in her Woonsocket home by 11 p.m. for the night.
But Woonsocket police told their counterparts in Providence that one of their Flock cameras flagged Delgado’s gray Dodge on the road at 3:40 a.m.
When she was meeting with detectives, Delgado agreed to let them search her cellphone. But as police were beginning to extract data from her iPhone 13, she had a change of heart and “revoked consent,” according to court documents.
“It should be noted that following Ms. Delgado’s revoke of consent, she was no longer cooperative with Detectives,” Brown wrote.
This meant a delay, as police needed a judge’s approval to secure a search warrant to obtain Delgado’s phone. While they were working to generate the probable cause to clear that hurdle, detectives said they learned some of the stolen money may be stashed in a North Providence storage facility in a unit rented by a Justine Fernandes.
Search warrant in hand, police found “several pieces of evidence,” including a fire safe which contained “a bag full of US currency totaling $24,345.”
‘Get rid of’ the car
Police needed to talk to Fernandes. Armed with an outstanding arrest warrant on drug, forgery and counterfeiting charges, detectives began looking for Fernandes and were tipped off to her location. Once in custody and in an interview room with cameras rolling, they questioned her about the heist.
She didn’t know his real name, Fernandes told them, but a guy called “Shaky” that she had known for three years reached out seeking help. Shaky showed up with another woman Fernandes had never met. Detectives showed her an array of pictures and the affidavit states Fernandes identified Shaky as Palmer, and the other woman as Delgado.
Palmer told Fernandes he needed to drive her car, then proceeded to cover up her license plates. Palmer drove the two women to the bank, and Fernandes was instructed to follow Delgado inside while Palmer waited behind the wheel of the 2001 Nissan Maxima.
Delgado wheeled in a red suitcase that had another bag inside it. The pair stuffed the suitcase and bag with cash, then “fled the scene.” Once back at Fernandes’ house, Palmer gave her some advice: get rid of the Nissan. She called a friend who sold it to a junkyard, she told detectives.
At about the same time, police conducted a search of Delgado’s Woonsocket home and found more incriminating evidence, roughly 90 “freshly printed” two-dollar bills. Santander officials told police there was about $400 of the uncommon currency in the vault at the time of the theft.
By this time, Delgado and Palmer were gone. As was the remaining roughly $464,000.
Court documents show Delgado reached back out to the bank asking when she could return to work.
On Wednesday, undercover officers descended on the Hampton Inn at 2 George St. in Pawtucket. Soon the parking lot was buzzing with marked Pawtucket police cruisers. Target 12 photographers captured exclusive video of Delgado and Palmer, both in handcuffs, being led from the hotel. Delgado looked ashen as police eased her into the backseat of the cruiser. Palmer gave an officer a big smile before he vanished into a police vehicle.
Delgado and Palmer were reunited again Thursday, but this time in a Providence district courtroom facing charges of larceny, breaking and entering, and conspiracy. Judge Melissa DuBose released Delgado on $10,000 surety bail after her attorney, Robert Watt, convinced the court his client was not a flight risk.
Palmer was shipped off to another courtroom to see a different judge about being a probation violator on a previous conviction. Court records show his $10,000 surety bond was posted.
Fernandes, who is already in custody on the other charges, was arraigned in July. She is facing the same counts as Palmer and Delgado.