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TWO WORCESTER MEN PLEAD GUILTY TO GRAFTON BANK ROBBERY

 TWO WORCESTER MEN PLEAD GUILTY TO GRAFTON BANK ROBBERY
 BOSTON, March 30 /PRNewswire/ -- Two Worcester men pleaded guilty today in federal court to an indictment charging them with the Oct. 29, 1990 robbery of the Savers Co-operative Bank in Grafton.
 U.S. Attorney Wayne A. Budd announced that Jose L. Rodriguez, 21, of 33 Beacon St., Worcester, and Joseph Lopez Jr., 22, of 87 Murray Ave., Worcester, pleaded guilty to a one-count indictment charging them with robbing the Grafton branch of the Savers Co-operative Bank on Oct. 29, 1990. Rodriguez and Lopez changed their pleas to guilty only moments before their trial before U.S. District Judge Edward F. Harrington was set to begin.
 At the change of plea hearing, a federal prosecutor told the court that, had the case gone to trial, the government would have proven that Rodriguez and Lopez were two of four men who robbed the Grafton bank.
 Three of the men entered the bank wearing masks, while the fourth man waited for them in a stolen getaway car. After entering the bank, one of the masked men took a position at the door and brandished a loaded revolver. The other two men vaulted the tellers' counter and, after looting the tellers' drawers, came away with $8,623.
 Through the quick thinking of a bank customer and a Tufts University police captain, police were informed almost immediately that the robbers had switched their stolen car with Rodriguez's own car approximately three miles from the bank.
 After a high speed chase through Shrewsbury and Worcester, police found Rodriguez's car abandoned in central Worcester. When the car was searched, police found all of the money taken from the bank, a loaded revolver, a homemade mask, and a wallet containing Rodriguez's license and registration.
 Rodriguez and Lopez were arrested the following day by Charlton and State Police units following another high speed chase of a stolen car. At the time of his arrest, Lopez was found to be carrying a news clipping describing the robbery. According to the prosecutor, Lopez had shown the news clipping to a friend the night before, and had boasted about what he and Rodriguez had done.
 Rodriguez and Lopez each face maximum sentences of 20 years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine. U.S. District Judge Harrington scheduled sentencing for June 8, 1992.
 The case was jointly investigated by agents from the Worcester office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and officers from the State Police Crime Prevention and Control Unit, in cooperation with the Grafton, Charlton and Worcester police departments.
 The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael J. Tuteur and S. Theodore Merritt, both of Budd's Major Crimes Division.
 -0- 3/30/92
 /CONTACT: Press Officer in the U.S. Attorney's Office, 617-223-9445/


EG -- NE017 -- 2995 03/30/92 15:26 EST
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Date:Mar 30, 1992
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