Alleged bank robber pleads not guilty; wife speaks out

(Credit: Riverhead Town police)
(Credit: Riverhead Town police)

A Riverhead man accused of robbing a downtown bank recently was arraigned on Thursday afternoon and remains held on a lowered bail in Suffolk County Court, while his wife was on hand to support him.

Robert Santoro, 46, pleaded not guilty to charges of felony robbery and misdemeanor petit larceny. 

Mr. Santoro was ordered held on $25,000 cash bail or $75,000 bond by Judge Mark Cohen, who lowered bail from the $300,000 cash bail set by a town justice last week,.

The man allegedly walked into the Capital One bank on East Main Street on March 14 and handed the teller a note “indicating that he had a gun,” said assistant district attorney James O’Rourke.

The man’s note demanded “100s, 50s, 20s, and 10s” and said he had a gun, but that he didn’t want to use it because he didn’t want to hurt anyone, according to court documents.

The teller handed over $7,500 during the robbery, Mr. O’Rourke said. Mr. Santoro allegedly fled the scene on foot but was caught hours later by Riverhead police at the Budget Host Inn in Riverside, authorities said.

Surveillance footage released by police of
Surveillance footage released of the robbery suspect prior to Robert Santoro’s arrest. (Credit: Riverhead Town police)

Police found cash from the robbery inside Mr. Santoro’s vehicle, the district attorney said. In addition to the evidence found inside the car, authorities also have evidence of Mr. Santoro robbing the bank from security cameras and identifications of the suspect by witnesses and the teller who was robbed, Mr. O’Rourke said.

Mr. Santoro also allegedly gave a written confession to police after he was caught, the district attorney said.

During a town court appearance on March 15, assistant district attorney Sean Buckley said Mr. Santoro had a prior felony conviction. But Mr. O’Rourke said on Thursday only that Mr. Santoro had two trespassing misdemeanor convictions from 1984 and 2001.

The man’s defense attorney from the Legal Aid, David Geller, told the court that Mr. Santoro has been living in Riverhead for 30 years and said he was not a flight risk.

Mr. Santoro was supported by his wife of 16 years at the court appearance, who told the News-Review that she now had no source of income since her husband was jailed and would be unable to pay his bail.

“My husband is not a bad person,” she said, adding that he was a loving father to the couple’s four children.

Mr. Santoro’s wife — who didn’t give her name — said there was an order of protection issued against Mr. Santoro so that he could “get help.” She said several incidents before the alleged robbery were a sign that her husband needed to be cared for.

“He was begging for help from the Family Court and he didn’t get it,” she said, though she declined to go into specifics. That, she believes, is what lead to the alleged robbery.

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Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly listed the bail amount for Robert Santoro as set on Thursday in county court.