Schenectady County

Real-life Schenectady bank heist echoes film portrayal

A robbery last September at the Trustco Bank at State Street and Brandywine Avenue, one where a desp

It was the stuff of which films are made.

These were films concerning a robbery last September at the Trustco Bank at State Street and Brandywine Avenue, one where a desperate man walked in and demanded money and fled with cash.

It also happened to be the same bank that a fictional desperate man robbed only weeks earlier, as the cameras for “The Place Beyond the Pines” recorded the actor’s every move.

In this real-life bank robbery, those Hollywood cameras might as well have still been there. Surveillance cameras from the bank, city, and businesses helped catch 34-year-old Jacob Rivera’s almost every move, from going to the bank, robbing it and leaving, as well as his confession later to police.

The real-life bank robbery films had been slated for a Schenectady County Court showing but have now been cancelled. This story has a not-so-Hollywood ending: A plea deal.

The final act to Rivera’s story came Tuesday morning before acting Schenectady County Court Judge Richard Giardino.

Rivera had been scheduled to stand trial beginning later this week on one count each of third-degree robbery and fourth-degree grand larceny, accused of robbing the bank Sept. 10, 2011. Rivera on Tuesday admitted his robbery of the Trustco at 1048 State St.; he made off with an estimated $1,600 in cash.

In exchange for his plea, Rivera is to receive up to 3 to 6 years in state prison. The deal was made directly with Giardino. The maximum under the deal is only slightly under the 3.5- to 7-year maximum Rivera would have faced, had he been convicted after trial.

The bank robbery happened just over a month after the fictional heist. Filmmakers from “The Place Beyond the Pines” chose that Trustco branch to film one of the movie’s robbery scenes, with Hollywood heartthrob Ryan Gosling recorded coolly holding up the bank and then evading pursuing police cruisers on a motorcycle.

Real life was much more subdued, though presumably no less frightening to those involved.

The action, if it can be called that, this time involves Rivera. It picks up near the corner of State and Elm streets. The city’s growing network of surveillance cameras pick up Rivera’s vehicle, a late-’90s minivan, including its distinctive body damage and missing hubcaps. From State and Elm, Rivera’s vehicle is seen driving down State Street, until it arrives at Brandywine. Turning left there, Rivera then turns onto Albany Street and into the parking lot to Hometown Health.

Cameras there show him getting out and going in the direction of the nearby bank.

Inside the bank, a new set of cameras records Rivera’s every move. Wearing a large, black hoodie, with the hood over his head and a black and white patterned scarf around his face, Rivera approaches the teller, hands over a note demanding cash and threatening that he has a gun, Cummings said. No gun is shown and prosecutors had no evidence that Rivera actually had one.

From there, he returned to his vehicle, got back in and left.

There were no police cruisers to give chase. It all happened too quickly.

Still, police were following, via the cameras that continued to roll. The cameras caught the vehicle on Nott Terrace, then Eastern Avenue. It was about then that it was last seen.

Police finally caught up with him days later, spotting the car and pulling Rivera over. They were sure they had the car. They just needed to make sure they had the robber. That came with the police questioning, which was also caught on video. Police have been video recording their interrogations of suspects since 2008.

On the video, Rivera began by denying involvement. He was elsewhere at the time, he said according to Cummings. Soon confronted with the surveillance videos, Rivera confessed. A search of his house later also uncovered the hoodie and scarf.

As to why he robbed the bank, Cummings said prosecutors believe it was to fuel a drug addiction. Rivera’s attorney Sven Paul later only described his client as being in a “desperate situation.”

Both Cummings and Paul said they do not believe Rivera was aware of that the movie filming had taken place there.

“I don’t think robbing a bank crossed his mind until he was in the parking lot moments before it occurred,” Paul said.

By then, though, the cameras were already rolling.

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