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Martha’s Vineyard bank manager was forced to open safe with gun pointed at his head, authorities say

A Rockland Trust branch in Vineyard Haven was robbed on Nov. 17.Ray Ewing/Vineyard Gazette

A stay-at-home dad from New Hampshire and a seasonal landscaper from Jamaica allegedly used Google searches to help plan the robbery of a Martha’s Vineyard bank during which the manager had a gun pointed to his head and the thieves escaped with almost $40,000 in cash, according to an FBI affidavit released Friday.

The details about the Internet searches were disclosed in an affidavit filed in US District Court in Boston where single counts of armed bank robbery were filed against Omar O. Johnson and Miquel A. Jones, both of whom are already in state custody for their alleged roles in the Nov. 17 robbery.

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The 21-page affidavit signed by FBI Special Agent Daniel P. Conlon contains new information about the intense danger three bank employees faced, how the two men allegedly prepared for the robbery, how the FBI, State Police, and Island police linked the two men to the crime.

The affidavit also includes indications that law enforcement officials know who allegedly joined Jones and Johnson in the Tisbury heist.

The emergence of the federal charges means Cape and Islands District Attorney Michael O’Keefe’s office will let US Attorney Rachael Rollins take over the case. Both Johnson, 32, and Jones, 39, have pleaded not guilty in state court and an initial appearance in federal court is set for Tuesday.

According to the affidavit, Johnson described himself to investigators as a stay-at-home dad who lives in Canterbury, N.H., while Jones told authorities he is from Jamaica but has been living on Martha’s Vineyard seasonally, working as a landscaper for the past several years.

Jones, who has children with Johnson’s sister who lives in Jamaica, and Johnson spent the night before the robbery together, and records show that Jones’s cellphone was in the branch parking lot at at 8:35 p.m. on the night before the robbery, Conlon wrote.

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Cellphone records show Nov. 4 searches made on Jones’s phone on security measures used by banks, including one headlined ‘security measures for a bank if attempted to be robbed,’ “ Conlon wrote.

At 8:15 a.m. on Nov. 17 as employees were opening the branch, three suspects, each armed with a handgun, each wearing dark clothes, and each wearing a “mask of an elderly man with exaggerated facial features” forced three employees through the rear door into the building, Conlon wrote.

“Once the robbers had gained access to the bank, they held a gun to the head of the bank manager and forced him to open and access the working vault” on the ground level of the bank, Conlon wrote. “As the manager was opening the vault, the robbers kept a gun pointed in his face.”

The employees were not physically harmed, bank officials have said.

The thieves made off with $39,100 in cash, including 200 $100 bills. To make their escape, the thieves allegedly stole a 2016 Nissan Murano owned by a teller whose husband worked with Jones at an island landscaping firm, Conlon wrote.

The SUV was recovered at the Manuel Correllus State Forest parking lot on Barnes Road in Edgartown, 2.3 miles away from the bank. A passing bus captured on video the moment the SUV arrived in the lot and showed a 2017 Hyundai Elantra registered to Johnson leaving the lot at 8:29 a.m.

At 8:57 a.m., a silver sedan pulled into the Stop & Shop parking lot near the Steamship Authority dock in Vineyard Haven. Two men got out and purchased ferry tickets with cash. They sailed on the 9:21 a.m. ferry to Woods Hole, and left the sedan in the lot, Conlon wrote.

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At 9:53 a.m., the Elantra arrived, and Johnson allegedly got out of that car, got into the sedan and purchased a ticket using a credit card issued in Jones’s name, authorities allege. Johnson and the sedan — later determined to be a 2009 Nissan Maxima registered to Johnson’s wife in New Hampshire — sailed on the freight ferry at 12:24 p.m., Conlon wrote.

Jones was stopped by police one day after the robbery driving the Elantra. In the days following the robbery, both Jones and Johnson were questioned by law enforcement and both have said they know a man investigators call Person 2 whom Johnson allegedly said was in the sedan the day of the robbery. The identity of Person 2 was not disclosed in court records.

The affidavit contains additional details allegedly linking Jones and Johnson to the violent crime.

Among other new details the affidavit contained:

— Jones worked for a Tisbury landscaping company. After the robbery, FBI agents and police searched company grounds and allegedly discovered two handguns loaded with 9mm bullets “buried inches under the ground.”

That discovery was made a short distance away from a patch of scorched ground where police allegedly found items including “burned pieces of nylon, white metal, plastic consistent with a white mask, burned walkie-talkie pieces.” Also on the property were “a glove, paper money band, zip tie and multiple rubber bands.”

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— On Nov. 18, Johnson allegedly gave his wife five $100 dollar bills. Investigators found receipts for $4,100 in cash Johnson deposited at a Connecticut bank — the bulk of which came from 25 $100 bills. He also had allegedly wired $700 in cash to Jamaica.

— Johnson had applied for a New Hampshire gun permit and purchased a black Glock pistol investigators found in his Canterbury home.

— Cellphone records for both men showed they stayed in Oak Bluffs, not Edgartown, where Jones told authorities they were, the night before the robbery. The records show both phones were at the property farm where Jones worked about an hour after the robbery and that both phones were located near the Steamship Authority dock a short time later.




John R. Ellement can be reached at john.ellement@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @JREbosglobe.