By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer
The suspects accused of robbing American Heritage Bank in Melrose on Monday morning posted a handwritten, misspelled note on the back of a Spider-Man comic book page on the front door of the bank after entering the building, according to court records.
The note said, “closed intill further notice, Thank you,” according to arrest affidavits filed Tuesday in Curry County Magistrate Court.
Marcos Maestas, 20, Patrick Quintana, 25, Juana Griego, 19, and Santos Preciado, 18, all of Tucumcari, were arrested without incident a short time later at a police road block.
Police recovered $16,460 in a backpack found in the suspect’s vehicle, records show.
The Curry County Sheriff’s Office said Tuesday the bank is conducting an audit to ensure all the money is accounted for.
During an interview with investigators, Preciado said the group had planned the robbery three days before. They drove into town the morning of the robbery, waited at a park and started getting nervous. He said they almost backed out of their plan.
According to the affidavit, the group entered the bank and Preciado posted the sign on the door, then he and Quintana, ran toward the tellers, jumped onto the counter and into the teller area and began gathering money.
Maestas stood guard at the door while Preciado waved a gun at the clerks and yelled that they give him money, records show.
Preciado shoved the money into a black backpack and Quintana filled the cargo pockets of his pants, the affidavit said, then the group fled the bank and got into a gray Pontiac four-door.
Bank Chief Executive Officer Gordon Morris pursued the group as they sped out of the area, calling police dispatch and giving directions as they reached speeds as high as 95 mph.
Morris told police he noticed the suspects throwing clothing and other items out of the vehicle as they fled.
They later told police they were trying to discard their disguises so they would not get caught with evidence, the affidavit said.
The group was apprehended when state police, based on the direction of travel Morris was giving, set up a road block on State Road 209.
The weapons used in the robbery — a pellet gun, a machete and a baseball bat — were recovered, police said.
The suspects face felony charges of armed robbery, conspiracy and tampering with evidence.