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Holyoke woman pleads not guilty to Northampton bank robbery; prosecutor says suspect fell behind on mortgage



Sunday, June 14, 2015
NORTHAMPTON — A Holyoke woman arrested at gunpoint Thursday decided to rob a King Street bank because she fell behind on her mortgage, Assistant Northwestern District Attorney Jayme Parent said at the woman’s arraignment Friday morning in Northampton District Court.

The suspect’s attorney, Korrina Burnham of the Committee for Public Counsel Services, told Judge W. Michael Goggins: “What happened yesterday came from desperation.”

Vivian Poreda, 58, of Holyoke, pleaded not guilty to a single charge of armed robbery. Police say Poreda demanded money and showed a gun — later determined to be a cap gun — at the Freedom Credit Union branch at 226 King St. at 10:22 a.m. Thursday. She allegedly got away with approximately $7,000 but was arrested nearby.

Judge W. Michael Goggins set bail at $10,000 without comment after hearing Poreda’s request that she be placed on house arrest with GPS monitoring so she could continue to care for her sick husband.

Parent had asked for bail of $25,000 or $250,000 personal surety, saying the high amount was warranted because Poreda could face a sentence of life in prison if convicted. She has also missed court dates in the past, Parent said, although she has not been in trouble with the law since 1995.

The prosecutor said that after her arrest, Poreda confessed to police.

“She had debts in regards to the mortgage on her home,” Parent said. “She decided that morning to rob a bank.”

Burnham argued that Poreda will not flee because she has nowhere else to go and must care for her husband. He suffers from colitis, an inflammation of the large intestine. Poreda is the only one in the family trained to give him regular shots to treat the condition, Burnham said.

“She is the sole caretaker for her husband,” Burnham said.

Poreda also has serious health issues of her own including diabetes, arthritis, nerve damage and anxiety. She sees a doctor monthly and takes medications multiple times every day, according to Burnham.

The family has no ability to pay bail, Burnham said. Many of Poreda’s family members were in court Friday, including her husband and two sons. During the arraignment Poreda stood silently next to her attorney, shackled and wearing a pink tank top and black pants.

“She hasn’t been in trouble in over 20 years,” Burnham said. Poreda’s past crimes were nowhere near as serious, she added.

Parent told Goggins that after deciding to rob a bank, Poreda drove to Northampton, walked into the credit union branch and into an office. She allegedly showed an employee the gun and ordered her out of the office. She gave the employee a note demanding $50,000 so “no one gets hurt,” Parent said.

The employee was so terrified she was speechless, the prosecutor said, but she gave the note to a bank teller. Parent said the tellers put together all the money they had in the drawers and gave it to Poreda.

The interaction took about five minutes, Parent said, during which time a bank employee slipped out a back door and called 911. Police were already notified of the robbery by the time Poreda allegedly exited the bank, threw the cap gun in the bushes and went to her car in a parking lot in the plaza. There she ditched a hat, T-shirt and latex gloves she had been wearing, Parent said.

She drove about a quarter-mile south on King Street before Officer Paul Marguet, who had been given a description of her vehicle, saw the car turn onto Finn Street, according to police. He pulled her over in the Florence Bank parking lot at 176 King St.

Poreda at first refused to get out of the car, but eventually complied and was arrested, Parent said in court. Police Capt. Jody Kasper said Thursday that officers had their guns drawn on Poreda because they initially believed she was armed.

Police saw cash in her car and impounded the vehicle while pursuing a search warrant, Parent said.

Northampton Police Capt. Jody Kasper said that a weapon does not have to be real to warrant an armed robbery charge. The person just has to “convey that they have a gun,” she said.

Rebecca Everett can be reached at reverett@gazettenet.com.