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Local News

August 17, 2013

Details emerge in ATM holdup

PEABODY — The Topsfield woman, with her two young daughters tucked in car seats behind her, was simply doing an errand, withdrawing $40 from the drive-up ATM outside the Bank of America near the Northshore Mall Monday morning.

At the same time, Gerald Russo, 33, of Gloucester, a man with a criminal record that includes heroin possession, was in a desperate hunt for $300 in cash.

His original plan was to pass an old check from the Cheesecake Factory, one that had already been cashed, a police report revealed. The bank didn’t fall for the alleged scheme, however, and he left empty-handed.

Then, police allege, he saw an opportunity.

He opened the passenger door of the Topsfield woman’s car , just as she had finished withdrawing cash, and hopped inside, she told police. He told the woman he needed $300, and the woman, fearing for her children, ages 20 months and 3 years, and herself, withdrew another $200 and gave it to him, she said.

Russo fled, the woman screamed for help, and the driver behind her, a 67-year-old woman, dialed 911.

Now Russo is being held without bail, pending a dangerousness hearing on Tuesday in Peabody District Court, where he’s facing charges of unarmed robbery and breaking and entering to a vehicle with intent to commit a felony. Details of the robbery emerged from court papers examined yesterday.

Russo, who just last year was sentenced to serve eight months of a two-year jail term for threatening a Gloucester cab driver and possessing heroin, has a lengthy criminal record dating back a decade, according to court papers and newspaper reports. Part of his sentence in the Gloucester taxi case required him to take part in a drug treatment program run by the Salvation Army.

A year earlier, in 2011, Russo was convicted of forgery charges stemming from the theft of checks from his mother, which he subsequently cashed.

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