By Christina Carrega
A brave bank teller jumped into action to protect a co-worker as an alleged armed robber threatened to shoot her before making off with $44,000 in less than 90 seconds.
Eight minutes after a Citibank on Steinway Street in Astoria opened on Aug. 24, 2017, bank employees thought they were about to service their first customer. Instead, a man wearing all black with a mask that only exposed his eyes stormed in. The man wore a mask that obscured most of his face except for his eyes, thick eyebrows and a portion of his nose
Prosecutors say that man is professional mixed martial artist Sergio DaSilva, who appeared in Queens Supreme Criminal Court for the first day of his bank robbery trial Tuesday.
DaSilva allegedly leaped four feet onto the teller counter in front of teller Maria Garcia, deftly grabbed the top of the three-foot tall bulletproof glass partition and jumped to the other side.
“Don't look at me I have a gun! I will shoot you. Give me more money or I will shoot,” Assistant District Attorney Breann Richards said that DaSilva told the bank employees.
In her opening statement at the jury trial before Justice Leslie Leach, Richards said that DaSilva made off with $44,964 in cash in just 1 minute and 19 seconds but left a piece of evidence behind: fingerprints.
“This defendant took measures to conceal his identity but forgot to wear one very important thing that day, gloves,” Richard's said to the jurors on Tuesday morning.
Though witnesses described the burglar as thin or athletic, they did not disclose DaSilva's profession to jurors. His attorney David M. Fish described DeSilva as a “dad.”
The robbery was caught on the bank's surveillance cameras.
DaSilva, 32, allegedly placed his hand inside his right pocket while standing on top of the teller's counter and shouted “take me to the vault,” said Amal Lahrichi, the prosecution's first witness.
Lahrichi, 31, was only on the job for two months and had the bank's emergency training protocols fresh in her mind.
After unloading more than $19,000 from her top cash box, Lahrichi heard the gunman threaten to shoot Garcia, she said.
“I gave him money from my second draw to distract him from threatening Maria, that's when he said I was a good girl,” Lahrichi said.
Garcia told the jurors that she was “so scared” when DaSilva allegedly threatened to shoot her three times, that she dropped money on the floor.
“I felt threatened, I believed he had a gun,” Lahrichi said. “He came in with a purpose with nothing to lose and was serious about his demands … he seemed like a madman an unreasonable person.”
DaSilva, who lives steps away from the crime scene, allegedly used his bare hands to pounce over the thick-glass partition and exited the bank by 9:10 a.m., Richards said.
Prosecutors said detectives lifted fingerprints from the top of the glass that the robber grabbed. Three of the prints allegedly matched DaSilva.
Fish told the jurors to keep an open mind and to scrutinize all the prosecutor's evidence “like detectives.”
If convicted for the top charge of first-degree robbery, DaSilva faces up to 25 years in prison.
“Alibi witnesses will testify for Mr. DaSilva,” Fish said. “You'll find that Sergio DeSilva is not guilty and send him home to his wife and children.”