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Los Alamos Police report that what appeared to be a straight-forward armed robbery at Mountainair Cleaners in November was apparently an inside job and a conspiracy to steal money to buy drugs.
Working together, LAPD patrol officers, detectives, residents and the District Attorney’s office have arrested, or are in the process of arresting, five people believed to be involved, including the clerk who posed as the victim.
Raleigh Whitt, 21, of Los Alamos is charged with the robbery of some $1,500 in cash and checks. He is identified as the man welding the knife and placing it against the neck of the clerk captured on store video.
Whitt is currently incarcerated in Santa Barbara, Calif., on another crime. Once his sentence is completed in California, Whitt will be extradited to Los Alamos to face multiple charges including:
• One count robbery;
• four counts conspiracy;
• three counts bribery or intimidation of a witness;
• two counts tampering with evidence;
• two counts contributing to the delinquency of a minor, and
• one count assault with intent to commit a violent felony.
Magistrate Court Judge Pat Casados set Whitt’s bond at $100,000 cash only.
According to court documents, Whitt’s girlfriend, Kristina Amer, 20, of Española drove the getaway car. She was arrested Tuesday and Casados set her bond at $50,000 cash only.
Mark Paternoster, 18, of Los Alamos is the clerk seen on the video tape. He is charged with conspiracy.
Thomas Marshall, 18, and a 16-year-old girl, both of Los Alamos, are charged with conspiracy as they served as lookouts during the armed robbery, according to reports. All three were referred to the juvenile probation office.
Sgt. Jason Herrera discussed the case during an interview Wednesday afternoon.
“Det. Doug Johnson and I received a tip from a citizen in late February,” Herrera said. “The citizen had knowledge of the robbery and said it was an inside job that involved five individuals, three of whom were juveniles at the time.”
The robbery was set up, according to the tipster, because the suspects needed money to buy heroin, Herrera said.
“In interviewing the suspects, they told us that heroin and methamphetamine are very prevalent in Los Alamos,” Herrera said.
On Sunday evening, a search warrant was served at Whitt’s former residence, 2064-A 42nd St., and police discovered the knife allegedly used in the robbery hidden under a back yard storage shed.
“Following up on additional tips and interviews, we had probable cause to believe the knife was hidden at that residence,” Herrera said.
On Tuesday, Herrera drafted an affidavit for an arrest warrant and he and LAPD Det. Ron Binion drove to Española, and with a local police officer, arrested Amer at her residence and charged her with robbery and conspiracy.
“This was such a great team effort,” Herrera said. “All the officers, detectives and citizens worked together to get these people off the streets.”
Capt. Randy Foster agreed and commended not only the solid collaboration between divisions at the LAPD, but also the effectiveness of the new District Attorney’s Office.
Angela Spence Pacheco became the new DA in January and Foster said the difference in responsiveness has been like night and day.
“With the assistance of Assistant District Attorney Karen Snell being assigned to us in Los Alamos and the help of the new DA, we were able to quickly obtain a search warrant and make these arrests,” Foster said. “We are very appreciative of the new DA office’s efforts.”
The case of the three juveniles has been turned over to the District Attorney’s Office, which will determine whether they will be tried as serious youth offenders or as adults, Herrera said.