Admitted criminal Melisa Aquino Arias, 23, hails from Passaic, New Jersey. Her co-defendant, 19-year-old Swahilys Pedraza-Rodgriguez, is originally from New Haven, Connecticut. These two ladies posed as nuns, wearing habits, veil head coverings, and sunglasses while attempting to rob several banks in Pennsylvania and New Jersey in late August, 2017.
A bank in Garfield, New Jersey, was hit only a week before the duo’s arrest. Prior to that, the women stole money from a drive-through automated teller machine in Scotrun, Pennsylvania. Arias could be facing up to 41 years in prison after her hearing in September, 2018. No details seem to be cited on Rodriguez’s sentencing. The hearing should be held on September 21, reports Seattle Times.
Both parties have already pleaded guilty to the same offense. Rodriguez was the first to enter a guilty plea, followed quickly by Arias one week later. Arias has since told officials that Rodgiruez sported a black handgun in the armed robberies, which she pointed at the teller in Tannersville, Pennsylvania. She demanded money while Arias stood watch by the door; during that particular robbery, the pair left without a penny, fleeing once the alarm was triggered, says Daily Voice.
A arrest was made after the women were recognized by an employee at a Teaneck bank. The witness had seen these women in reports from their prior bank theft in Garfield, New Jersey. As the pair attempted to open an account, the police were telephoned, and within moments an arrest was made.
— FBI Philadelphia (@FBIPhiladelphia) August 28, 2017
Images of these two criminals were caught on a security camera and released by the FBI during the investigation. This use of religious dress to perform actual banks heists appears to be the first of its kind, though the disguise was used in Ben Afleck’s The Town. That is certainly not to say the women took their idea from the film, but is a similar tidbit that may serve as some interest to followers of this case.
Charges against Arias and Rodriguez include attempted bank robbery, attempted conspiracy to steal from a bank, and actual bank robbery, says the office of U.S. attorney Craig Carpenito. More on this release can be found on North Jersey. For even further details on the initial news, check out the article on the Morning Call.
“While inside, Arias acted as a lookout as Pedraza-Rodriguez took out what appeared to be a gun and demanded money from a bank teller. Arias signaled to Pedraza-Rodgriguez that they should leave the bank and the women fled empty handed.”
With both women admitting their roles in the month long crime spree, accompanied by bank surveillance photographs and witnesses, Rodriguez and Arias should see deserved sentencing at the hearing. During their successful robbery, Rodriguez and Aria succeeded in stealing between $2,000 and $3,000, say the sources cited in the Daily Voice.