Massachusetts Robbery Attempts, With And Without Weapons, Continue To Rise…And Sometimes Fail

Reports say that robberies are on the rise. I suppose that is not a big surprise, given the economic downturn we are dealing with.

Some of the attempts do have some entertainment value, though.
For example, let’s begin with such an attempt from earlier this very week. We turn to Lowell, Massachusetts. There, we find a peaceful scene. A grandmother and her 8-year-old grandson inside their home. Enjoying the day, perhaps happy that the snow from Sunday had stopped. Norman Rockwell type of scene.

Suddenly, there is a knock at the door.

End of peaceful scene.

Grandmother and Grandson were suddenly terrorized. A man and woman burst into the home, demanding money. Actually, they were more specific than that. With masks on, Grandmother tells us, “They kept wanting $1,000. They kept saying, ‘You got $1,000!”

Grandmother explained to them that she didn’t have that much money in the house.

The duo did not belie her. They demanded her purse, which she told them was in another room.

“So when he went for my pocketbook, I told my grandson run and get the police,” she said.

The 8-year-old did as Grandmother told him. He bolted from the house and ran about 100 yards to a gas station, screaming for help.

“I ran in there. I told them to call 911, because people in my house wanted money,” said the grandson.

Right after the child ran out, the couple fled without getting any money. They apparently sought to get away, but, naturally, ran in the same direction as the boy.

Meanwhile, Grandmother called 911 and talked to the dispatcher. She learned that her grandson was safe and at the nearby gas station.

The scene ended happily, with nobody hurt.

Meanwhile, Irony lives in Massachusetts.

The day after the attempted robbery, perhaps celebrating her luck that the incident ended as well as it did, Grandmother decided to buy a scratch ticket.

She won $1000.

Note to would-be robbers, though. She has publically stated that the money has already been spent, so do not get any ideas!

A few days earlier, on Friday, Fitchburg, Massachusetts, was also experiencing an interesting robbery scene. It was an attempted bank robbery.

The weapon? A fake bomb.

It was at a John Fitch Highway bank where Maria O., 51 (hereinafter, the “Defendant”) allegedly tried to threaten a bank teller with an apparent bomb and demanded $50,000.

In general, people’s expectations seem to be low this year.

It was approximately 4:10 pm when the police were summoned to the bank. There, the teller explained how a woman carrying a large bag had come into the bank wearing a hat, sunglasses, and a winter jacket with the hood partially pulled over the hat. The woman handed the teller a note and opened the bag, which contained “what appeared to be a bomb in an envelope,” according to the teller.

“The note said she had a bomb and she wanted $50,000,” according to Officer Keith C. Bourne’s report. “If the police were notified then they would die.”

The teller placed the note aside and asked the woman to remove her hat and sunglasses.

The woman just looked at her. She “appeared confused and muttered something in broken English,” Officer Bourne wrote.

The teller then said she asked the suspect again to take her hat off and motioned for an assistant manager to activate the alarm.

At that point, the suspect apparently turned and walked out off the bank…perhaps still muttering things like, “I don’t get it….people must be crazy…I tell them I have a bomb…!”

The woman was then seen running toward a green Chevrolet Blazer and taking her jacket off, perhaps in exasperation.

Officer Bourne said he found the vehicle soon after and pulled up to it near the intersection of Boutelle and Lunenburg streets. Inside, he observed what appeared to be a homemade bomb in the vehicle.

The Defendant was taken back to the bank to be identified by the teller. That night, the state police bomb squad was summoned to the city to deal with the suspected bomb. The incident snarled traffic at a major intersection for hours.

You guessed it…not a working bomb.

When questioned by police, the Defendant apparently admitted all and explained that she had been desperate after being out of work for an extended period of time.

On Monday, the Defendant pleaded not guilty to charges of attempting to commit a crime (armed robbery), driving a motor vehicle with a suspended license and possessing a hoax device. She was released from custody yesterday after a relative posted $5,000 cash bail.

This was not the only legal difficulty awaiting the Defendant, however. She was also greeted with, and arraigned on, one-year-old allegations of credit card fraud and larceny for which she had a warrant involving claims she rang up about $450 in charges on someone else’s credit card. Those offenses were alleged to have occurred on Dec. 3, 2007, according to court records. The card was used at a Market Basket store and a gas station and, she told police, to buy coats for her grandchildren. Nothwithstanding the children’s warmth…it is still a white collar crime of theft.

Bail was set on the older charges in the amount of $100 and the Defendant is to return to court in January for a pretrial hearing.

Samuel’s take:

First of all, a word of advice to all the “would be” heroes out there. The intended victims in these cases were lucky. The Defendant did not have an actual bomb (or gun). The home invasion duo did not apparently have, or use, a weapon. The advice is similar to the victim as I keep giving to those who are being charged with a crime. Namely, do not fight, engage in flight, out-talk or any of the other heroic ideas that come to mind when your life is in danger. Quietly comply if possible, particularly if we are talking about money.

Of course, in such cases, calling a criminal defense attorney might not do you as much good as calling the police…!

Bet you never expected me to be adding in those words in this daily blog.

Anyway, you should be aware that an attempt to commit a crime is almost as good, in the eyes of the law, as committing the crime. True, the sentences involved may be different in certain instances (depending on damage done). However, “Hey, I didn’t even get away with it” is not considered a legal defense.

You may think that point obvious. I have represented many a client for whom it was not.

In keeping with earlier blogs this week, there is something else for the would-be robber to keep in mind. If any of the victims of this crimes had suddenly grabbed their chests out of fear and dropped dead because of the event…you guessed it…murder charges would also be added to your tally.

Here is another perhaps obvious point that still is worth noting. Although it sounds sympathetic, “I really needed the money” is not a recognized defense in the Commonwealth. It is actually best to dispense with making the incriminating statements at all, actually. There are Constitutional protections and everything underscoring your rights in that area.

One last observation- do not be misled by the fact that there is no report of our $1000-fixated robbery duo being caught after they dashed out. Like the Defendant in today’s blog, they likely will be, if they have not yet been. However, since they did not actually injure anyone or make matters worse for themselves, they are likely to be denied membership into the “Hey, I’ll Bet I Can Make This Situation Worse” Club without a little more effort.

Samuel Goldberg is the senior criminal defense attorney at the firm of Altman & Altman, LLP. A former prosecutor in New York, he has worked as a Boston defense attorney over 18 years. He has published various articles regarding the practice of criminal law and frequently provides legal analysis on radio and television, appearing on outlets such as the Fox News Channel, Court TV, MSNBC and The BBC Network.

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