River Forest cop’s info helps nab bank robber
Updated: July 8, 2012 8:19AM
A sharp-eyed rookie River Forest cop who’d seen an intelligence bulletin on a recent Elmwood Park bank robbery provided key assistance in the effort to the capture accused serial bank robber Charlie Montalvo.
Montalvo, 36, of 4208 Edgewood, Hillside, was charged Thursday with the May 30 robbery of the First Merit Bank branch located at 7227 W. Addison, Chicago.
According to the FBI, another “law enforcement agent” happened to be in the area of the bank branch Wednesday afternoon. After hearing the dispatch call of a bank robbery that had just occurred, that agent spotted Montalvo’s car and followed him to a residential garage. Montalvo ran, but was arrested after a brief foot chase.
A replica handgun and cash from the bank were recovered in the garage. Montalvo, who was paroled from prison in May 2011, is being held without bond and is scheduled to be back in court on June 7.
According to both a criminal complaint against Montalvo filed in federal court Thursday and the narrative of a River Forest arrest report, it was River Forest patrol officer Glen Czernik who gave investigators crucial information on Montalvo.
Czernik put both a name to a face on bank surveillance photos and a license number to the car captured on video speeding away from a January 2012 robbery in Elmwood Park, and even supplied the car’s VIN number and Montalvo’s work address.
It all started just before 9 a.m. Feb. 10, when Czernik was patrolling on the 1200 block of N. Harlem Avenue. He spotted a car that matched the description from Elmwood Park police bank robbery bulletin, a silver 2002 Honda Accord coupe pictured in a “critical reach” bulletin sent to area police departments.
When the car pulled into the 7-Eleven store at 1140 N. Harlem, Czernik pulled into the lot and radioed for backup. He watched as Montalvo and his passenger walked into the store.
The two men then walked back to the car, where Montalvo retrieved some paperwork from the car and walked over to Czernik’s squad car.
“(Montalvo) began to speak with (me) and handed (me) an Illinois State ID card, birth certificate and business card,” Czernik stated in his report.
“Montalvo stated he was currently attempting to pay off a ticket he received out-of-state in order to clear up his driver’s license.”
But Czernik determined that Montalvo’s license has been suspended back in August 1998, after he entered a plea agreement with federal prosecutors for an armed bank robbery, for which he served 12 years in prison.
Czernik placed Montalvo under arrest and transported him to the station, where he was processed on a driving while license suspended citation. He posted bond and was released, with a March 16 court date.
On March 29, his second anniversary as a cop, Czernik saw bank surveillance footage of another robbery, in Berwyn, that included a closeup of a husky man with a nylon stocking over his face. Czernik immediately recognized him as Montalvo, and called Detective Sgt. Marty Grill.
“Excellent work connecting the dots,” Grill told him. “I’ll do a bulletin.” The FBI was notified.
Deputy Chief Craig Rutz called Czernik’s experience “the case of a life time” and praised his law enforcement instincts.
“We’ve got officers who’ve reached retirement who may have a single case like this one,” Rutz said.
“We were impressed, first, that he made this (identification) off a simple picture on a wanted flier,” said Rutz. “He made the stop he knew what he had and he notified the FBI. Then he recalled the face again later when he saw it on television (after a later bank robbery).”
“You can’t ask for more than that.”
FBI Special Agent Ross Rice said Friday that while Czernik’s information was just part of process of identifying and apprehending Montalvo, including an attentive off-duty Chicago police officer, he acknowledged “it certainly was an important element in it.”
“It’s part of the patchwork of assistance at every level that law enforcement is involved in everyday,” Rice said of Czernik’s police work.