Fellow prisoners have told Martinez that his story sounds straight out of Point Break, the 1991 movie about surfers turned bank robbers. "We've got Patrick Swayze over here," they'd say, referring to the film's star — and Martinez, who's seen the flick a half-dozen times, doesn't deny the similarity. The name they were given, the Snowboard Bandits — "That was so cool," he says — and the notoriety just deepened his addiction.

"All you think about is the next hit; all you think about is the next score." Soon it wasn't enough to get in and out in 45 seconds flat, their bag full of money, hearts pounding beneath their Burton jackets. So they hit two banks in a row, started returning to their past scores — and made bigger plans. "Why just hit two banks — why not hit three?" Martinez says. "Let's try to hit a dozen in a day, from Greeley down to Colorado Springs."

He was busted before that ever happened. "This is the cure," he says, gesturing to the prison walls. "It's a hard cure, but it's the only way to get away from it."

Special Agent Phil Niedringhaus (above) runs an FBI task force that cracks bank robbery cases like the ones involving the Snowboard Bandits (right).
Special Agent Phil Niedringhaus (above) runs an FBI task force that cracks bank robbery cases like the ones involving the Snowboard Bandits (right).
Michael Jason Martinez (above) was addicted to snowboarding — and bank robberies; TCF security chief John Maloney (right) helped catch Martinez and Edgar Adrian Perez.
Michael Jason Martinez (above) was addicted to snowboarding — and bank robberies; TCF security chief John Maloney (right) helped catch Martinez and Edgar Adrian Perez.

And he harbors no grudges against Maloney or Wright. "They're very good at what they do," he says with a shrug. "I'm behind bars."

And that's where he'll stay, in this jail in Golden, until he's sentenced. The fact that he says he's remorseful, that he's willing to offer security advice to Maloney, may not help; for the robberies he's admitted to, he could be looking at fifteen years.

While he waits, Martinez watches from his window as winter advances across the foothills, the leaves falling from the trees and the snow creeping down the peaks. "I dream of going out there and snowboarding," he says. "The season's almost here; I can see it out there. And I can't do anything about it."


Back in the Safe Streets headquarters, Wright is professionally circumspect about what he learned from his first big robbery case. "You definitely gain experience," he says. "It's kind of hard to say how one case impacted you." But Wright and his colleagues have little time to sit around pondering past cases; there are always new robberies to solve.

At a recent Wednesday-morning meeting, Niedringhaus takes stock of the task force's track record. "How many robberies are we up to this year, Woody?" At last count, there had been 122 heists in Colorado and Wyoming, notes Woodward — 68 percent of which have been solved, putting Safe Streets in line for another exemplary year.

A curious new case comes up: A Hispanic kid has hit two northwest Denver banks after getting permission from the tellers to use the bathroom. "We have a urine sample," jokes one of the guys as the others guffaw. "He may be pregnant."

Robbery photos will have to be sent to news outlets, area banks will be put on alert — but first, says Niedringhaus, there's the pressing matter of a nickname.

Someone suggests "Junior Sloth," since the kid was slow and methodical like Supersloth before him. No, say the others, that doesn't really fit. "El Baño Bandito," posits another investigator, but the group decides that's not politically correct. Finally, they settle on a name.

Watch your back, Potty-Training Bandit. Safe Streets is on the case.

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