By Joel Warner
By Michael Roberts
By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
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It turned out that he was arrested later that day in Arapahoe County on a revoked bond for another criminal case.
But Wright did find something interesting in the condo: videotape of Figueroa-Maldonado and some friends snowboarding at a local resort. Shredding down the mountain, the men were wearing what appeared to be the same outfits, jackets and hats seen in the bank surveillance images.
Wright knew the attire well, having used it to connect Martinez and Perez to more of the robberies, matching a jacket worn in one to an earlier heist, linking shoes captured on security footage in November with shoes spotted on film a month later.
The pair explained to him that they were familiar with federal robbery laws, as Wright had suspected, since Martinez had served time for robberies in the 1990s. And Wright says they told him he hadn't found transaction records at local stores for their snowboarder gear because they'd stolen them off the rack.
And for all the Bandits' cunning, they'd had a few boneheaded moments. To deal with the dye-stained bills from their first robbery, for instance, the robbers told investigators that they'd decided to launder the money — literally, as in run it through the wash. So off they went to their local laundromat, where, after a liberal helping of Oxi-Clean, several washing machine cycles and a spin in a dryer, they had a load of light-pink bills — leaving behind a couple of awestruck patrons who'd caught a glimpse of the small fortune through the dryer window.
Gone is Michael Martinez's snowboarder attire, his top-of-the-line jacket, his trendy face mask and goggles. In its place he wears a thin v-neck shirt, bland prison garb that clashes with the purple bars he sits behind in the Jefferson County Detention Facility.
"It is what it is," he says of his predicament, a phrase he's fond of. His head shaved and his goatee flecked with grey, the 38-year-old Martinez is well-spoken and gregarious, though guarded about the specific crimes attributed to the Snowboard Bandits. "What they have are three suspects," he says. "What they don't have is who did what." After all, he points out, when the stick-up artists were swaddled in snowboard attire, they all looked the same.
Still, in a June plea agreement, Martinez admitted to four of the robberies — on November 28, December 3, December 19 and the one where he was caught, on January 23; he's scheduled to be sentenced in federal district court this January.
Perez pleaded guilty in May to his role in the January 23 robbery and is serving 47 months in a Pennsylvania prison. In a letter from jail, he declined to be interviewed, saying he didn't think it would be "a wise idea."
Figueroa-Maldonado is still in the Arapahoe County jail and declined to comment through his lawyer. He's been charged for the patrol-vehicle carjacking, but not for any of the heists — though Maloney, for one, is confident he'll be held accountable. The TCF security officer has Figueroa-Maldonado's mug shot tacked up in his office, and he's certain his dark eyes are the same ones he studied so intently on bank security footage.
Martinez's jailhouse reticence fades away when the subject of snowboarding comes up. "I was decent," he says with a smile that suggests he's being modest. In fact, he says, he lived on the slopes, spending his days at Vail or Sunlight or Aspen and then taking nighttime runs at Keystone. A bail-bonds company he ran with his wife was the perfect job for his wintry passion, even better than his previous gig, regional manager of six Subway restaurants in Glenwood Springs. With most of his clients bonding out at night, he was free to hit the mountains during the day.
Braving blizzard conditions on Winter Park's half-pipe, kicking up out-of-bounds powder at A-Basin, clad head to toe in "Burton everything," this New York native was able to leave his troubled past behind. Drinking, drugs, assault charges and, finally, bank robbery had killed his military career — one that included a bronze star from service during the Persian Gulf War and a full scholarship to officer candidate school — and landed him in prison from 1998 to 2001.
Martinez and his buddies are certified thrill-seekers, he says, though he's careful not to say exactly which buddies he's talking about. Jet-skiing, snowmobiling, bungee-jumping, skydiving — they'd do anything that got the wind roaring in their ears. But for Martinez, none of it compared to being on his snowboard. "I enjoyed it tremendously, no doubt," he says. "It's you and the elements; you're free."
But then last winter, he picked up another exhilarating habit, one he'd swore he'd kicked after his time behind bars. He'll only hint at the circumstances that led him to the first TCF he hit — he promises it wasn't the reckless self-abandon that fueled his earlier heists — but then he was hooked. (It was happenstance that led to that first TCF branch, he says; after that, he just stuck with what worked.)
"It is a feeling better than any high you can get from any manufactured drug there is, as far as I'm concerned," he says. The fact that they didn't use weapons just heightened the thrill, since they never knew if they'd find themselves face to face with the barrels of SWAT assault rifles. It was like the exhilaration they got when they free-climbed up the canyon walls they'd spotted on their way to Black Hawk casinos, or when Martinez would push the motorcycle he'd purchased with his stolen dough to 85 or 90 miles an hour and pop it up on one wheel. "One mistake and it's over."