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FBI: New Haven Woman, NJ Accomplice Held As Bank Robbery 'Nuns'

Bank surveillance photos from Garfield (color) and Tannersville, PA (black and white). Photo Credit: COURTESY: FBI
Swahilys Pedraza Photo Credit: Contributed
Melissa Aquino Arias Photo Credit: Contributed

TEANECK, N.J. -- (UPDATE) A New Haven woman and a Dominican national were being held in connection with the robbery of a New Jersey bank last month after police caught them fleeing another branch on Sunday.

FBI agents believe Swahilys Pedraza-Rodriguez, 19, of New Haven and Melissa Aquino Arias, 23, dressed as nuns in a failed attempt to rob a bank in the Poconos in Pennsylvania several weeks ago, Daily Voice has learned.

Both were brought before a federal judge in Newark Monday afternoon on federal warrants charging them with robbery through threat or fear of harm.

Pedraza-Rodriguez and Arias entered the Spencer Savings Bank in Garfield on Sept. 27 and asked a bank teller for information about opening a bank account, Acting U.S. Attorney William E. Fitzpatrick said Monday afternoon.

"Soon after, Arias, who was wearing a blue hijab, took out a black handgun and demanded money, while Pedraza-Rodriguez stood guard by the bank manager," Fitzpatrick said.

"After a bank teller handed them some cash, the defendants left the bank, and employees immediately alerted the police," he said. "Law enforcement officers responded to the scene, but did not immediately locate the robbers."

SEE: FBI Releases Photos Of Garfield Female Bank Robbers

Around noon Sunday, the pair entered the NVE Bank on Palisade Avenue in Teaneck.

"Arias wore an orange hijab and Pedraza-Rodriguez wore a black head covering," Fitzpatrick said. "They approached a bank employee and requested information about opening a bank account.

"The employee recognized the women as the alleged perpetrators of the Garfield bank robbery," the U.S. Attorney said. "As the employee went to alert the police, the women left the bank."

An alert was issued, and moments later Leonia Police Officer Eduardo Millan and Raymond Forsdahl pulled the pair's car over on westbound Route 80.

The FBI believes both are also the shortish women -- 5 feet tall to 5-foot-2 -- who fled a Tannersville, PA bank on Aug. 29 empty-handed after one of them flashed a gun, law enforcement sources told Daily Voice.

In that incident, the pair ordered tellers and customers to put their hands in the air and demanded cash but then took off after an alarm was triggered.

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