Volume 80, Number 37 | February 10 - 16, 2011
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Photo by Wickham Boyle

Efrain Aquino Jr., a.k.a. Junior, outside Two Boots Pizza on Greenwich Ave.

Pizza man did the right thing; Will Capital One?

By Wickham Boyle

At 10 minutes to 10 on Monday morning Feb. 7, a lone robber came into the Capital One Bank branch at Sixth Ave. at W. Fourth St. In the bank at the time was Efrain Aquino Jr., known as Junior to his clients. For 16 years Efrain has managed the Two Boots Pizza at 75 Greenwich Ave., and he makes this money run regularly to deposit the weekend cash and get coins for the next few days.

This past Monday was no different. Aquino waited in line.

“There were very few customers in the bank, and only one teller,” he recalled. “When I got to the head of the line, the teller asked the man behind me what he wanted and he responded, ‘A roll of quarters.’ She had already seen that I required 846 bucks in coins in a variety of forms. I had it all written out on slips of paper. The teller said she had no coins and left for the vault.”

Aquino went on excitedly, “I was at the head of the line with my cash on the teller’s desk when a guy dressed all in black bursts in holding his hand inside his shirt. It looked like a gun sticking out. I thought at first he was another crazy person, until he started yelling for everyone to lie down. Then I saw he meant business. All the back-office people lay down, and I did too.”

“He kept screamin’, ‘Where’s the f---ing money? Where’s the f---ing money?’ and getting more agitated because there was none and no teller. When he walked over to me, I was worried he would shoot me. Then I said to him, ‘Take whatever you want from me, take my money on the counter.’”

In an incredible, cool moment, Aquino directed the robber to take his deposit and he did. But the robber dropped the money and began yelling at everyone again until he gathered the cash together and ran out the door.

Aquino explained, “I thought if he didn’t get any money he would turn violent on all of us out of frustration, and so I said, Take anything.”

Initially, for his cool head, Aquino was told by the bank management that because he hadn’t officially deposited the money Capital One Bank was not responsible. Capital One, of course, is the bank whose credit card profits rose on a commercial showing other banks to be rapacious Visigoths ready to pick people’s wallets, while the benign Capital One was ready with low fees and a helping hand.

Capital One Financial Corp. posted fourth-quarter profits that leaped 85 percent. The Virginia-based bank posted net income of $697 million for the last three months. The biggest improvement came in its well-advertised credit card segment, from which the company derives about a third of its earnings.

Two Boots Pizza, a local hangout featuring a pizza cuisine fusion of two geographic boots, Italy and Louisiana, doesn’t have profits anywhere nearly as stratospheric as Capital One. A call to the Capital One corporate headquarters assured a reporter that rather than the answer given Aquino after the robbery, that, in fact, the bank was reconsidering its response.

Speaking the day after the robbery, Aquino said the pizza shop’s accountant received a phone call from the bank asking for the amount that had been taken from the teller’s ledge. Aquino said it’s hard times that would make a man come into a bank in broad daylight and try to make off with a little money. It’s heartening to see that someone who had been victimized can share in the perpetrator’s plight, and more heartening that a major financial institution can quickly decide to do the right thing.

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