A New Jersey man who played a major role in two armed bank robberies that hauled in nearly $80,000 in total, has been convicted by a federal jury and now faces decades or even life in prison.

U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger announced that the gunman, 52-year-old Jose Soto of Passaic has been convicted on the charges of conspiracy to commit bank robbery, and brandishing a firearm during those robberies.

The two bank heists that Soto and his partner orchestrated were in February of 2020 about three weeks apart and in both instances, they had a similar M.O. with the actions taken.

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Attorney Sellinger said that in both cases Soto pointed a silver and black handgun at bank employees and customers while his conspirator hopped the teller counter and began ordering that cash be withdrawn rom the bank vault and/or cash drawers and moved into their possession.

In the first reported armed bank heist, Soto and his co-bank robber put on face coverings and held up umbrellas as they ventured into PNC Bank in Passaic and later walked out with about $35,000 from this location.

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In the second reported armed bank heist, Soto and his co-bank robber looted the Valley Bank in Little Falls, his conspirator hopped the counter and went through cash drawers here as well while again customers and employees were ordered to the floor.

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When this job was done, both bank robbers walked away from the bank in Little Falls with about $45,000, ordered employees into the vault, and then they both took off through the back door.

For his armed role, Soto is looking at up to 20-years in prison and approximate $250,000 fine on each bank robbery charge, according to Attorney Sellinger, and up to five years in prison with a similar fine for each conspiracy charge and then seven years to life in prison and a similar fine amount for each count of brandishing a firearm in furtherance of a bank robbery.

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Attorney Sellinger said that in this case, the government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Emma Spiro and Mark J. Pesce of the Criminal Division in Newark while the defense counsel for Soto is Kevin Buchan Esq., Tinton Falls, New Jersey, and James Seplowitz Esq., Hackensack, New Jersey.

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