As I understand this, Espinosa robbed a bank, confessed to doing so and continues to be paid by the Town of Framingham.

He is on administrative leave which means that he is being paid and doesn't have to work. It's like a nice vacation.

Framingham firefighters work a 48 hour shift and then have five days off. Espinosa took up bank robbing as a second job? Don't we pay these people enough?

Natick Detective: Framingham Firefighter robbed bank to pay debt November 16, 2017
Norman Miller 508-626-3823 Metrowest Daily News
Michael Espinosa, 34, is arraigned Friday on an armed robbery charge. Espinosa, a Framingham firefighter, is accused of robbing a Citizens Bank branch inside a grocery store in Natick Thursday. He was represented in court by lawyer Charles Hughes. [Daily News Staff Photo/Jim Haddadin]

A panic attack initially stopped Michael Espinosa"s from robbing the Citizens Bank inside a Rte. 9 Stop & Shop in Natick last week, a detective said Thursday.

Espinosa, a Framingham firefighter now on paid administrative leave, left the bank and sat in his Jeep for several minutes, Natick Police Detective Daniel Ciocca said. Then Espinosa received a call from a man demanding to be repaid part of the $35,000 Espinosa owes to 15 different people.

He returned to the bank a few minutes later, told the teller he had a gun and demanded she fill a bag with "high denomination bills," Ciocca testified during a Framingham District Court hearing to determine if Espinosa is a danger to the public. Espinosa, he said, thanked the teller after she filled a bag with $1,000.

Authorities say Espinosa robbed the bank around 11:10 a.m. on Nov. 9. Natick Police received numerous tips from Framingham Police officers who knew Espinosa due to him being a firefighter. Espinosa drove a grey Jeep Liberty, which matched the description witnesses gave of the vehicle the bank robber drove off in.

Police from both Natick and Framingham put Espinosa"s 41 St. Lo Road home under surveillance. Espinosa, Ciocca said, had registered 27 guns previously and they figured he could have as many as 10 guns in the home.

Officers saw Espinosa walk up to the home with his 7-year-old daughter. Officers decided to continue watching, instead of taking him into custody, the officer said.

"We didn"t know if he had firearms within reach," said Ciocca. "We didn"t know what his intentions were. We know he had his daughter with him and we waited."

A little while later, Espinosa"s girlfriend arrived, and she left with his daughter. Officers stopped Espinosa as he tried to drive off.

"The defendant was very good with us, very honest," said Ciocca. "He gave us a full confession."

Espinosa said he stole the money because of the large debt he had. He said some of the people he owed money were threatening him with physical violence. After robbing the bank, he paid $350 to one of the people he owed money. Police recovered that money, Ciocca said.

Espinosa gave police directions to the trash where he threw the hat and sweatshirt he wore during the robbery. He also gave police the code to get into his gun safe. Police found four unregistered guns - two shotguns and two rifles - as well as a large amount of ammunition. Police did not find any of the registered guns.

Investigators made a discovery when they searched Espinosa"s Jeep"s trunk.

"There was a suitcase with several books with titles like ‘How to Rob a Bank,"" said Ciocca. "He also had a BB pistol, a hockey ski mask and zip ties."

Police charged Espinosa with armed robbery.

Prosecutor Timothy Cochrane told Judge David Cunis ample evidence exists that Espinosa is too dangerous to release to the public. Cochrane said Espinosa may have a substance abuse problem.

"This was a desperate individual who took desperate measures to solve a desperate situation," Cochrane said.

Espinosa"s lawyer, Charles Hughes, argued for his client"s release. He said his client served in the Army in both Iraq and Afghanistan and was injured by IEDs in both countries. He is 80 percent disabled because of that.

Hughes said there were no drugs found and all of the weapons that are unaccounted for have been sold. Espinosa is a lifelong Framingham resident and has no criminal record.

"He"s suffering from stress from his debt and his military service," Hughes said.

According to a police report, Espinosa"s brother, Sudbury Police Officer James Espinosa, told police that Michael Espinosa suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and had an addiction to OxyContin. Hughes said Espinosa is getting counseling due to his stress.

Framingham Police also charged Espinosa in an unrelated case. They say that he improperly cashed a Framingham man"s checks and used his credit card to run up more than $6,000 in September. Police charged Espinosa with larceny of more than $250 by a single scheme and improper use of a credit card in that case.

Cunis ordered Espinosa held on $25,000 bail on the robbery case and $250 for the larceny case. If Espinosa posts bail, he has to continue with counseling. He will have to wear a GPS monitoring bracelet and be on house arrest except for specific windows he can leave his home for various appointments. He cannot drink alcohol or use drugs without a prescription and will have to undergo random tests. Espinosa is also banned from going to any Stop & Shops or any Citizens Banks and he must surrender any guns and ammunition if police did not seize everything.

Espinosa is due back in court on Dec. 15 for a pretrial conference.

Framingham firefighter charged with robbing Natick bank November 10, 2017
Jim Haddadin 617-863-7144 Metrowest Daily News
Michael Espinosa, 34, is arraigned Friday on an armed robbery charge. Espinosa, a Framingham firefighter, is accused of robbing a Citizens Bank branch inside a grocery store in Natick Thursday. He was represented in court by lawyer Charles Hughes. [Daily News Staff Photo/Jim Haddadin]

FRAMINGHAM - A hero Framingham firefighter who served a tour in Afghanistan with the National Guard was arraigned Friday on charges he robbed a bank branch inside a Natick supermarket store one day earlier.

Michael Espinosa, 34, is accused of forcing a female bank teller to fill a brown paper bag with cash, then fleeing in a sport utility vehicle.

The robbery occurred shortly after 11:10 a.m. at the Citizens Bank inside the Stop & Shop at the 9/27 Plaza, 829 Worcester St.

Espinosa was arrested about 11 hours later near his home at 41 Saint Lo Road in Framingham. Five Framingham police officers took Espinosa into custody at 10:01 p.m. Thursday near 56 Arsenal Road on behalf of police in Natick, according to the police log.

At Espinosa's arraignment in Framingham District Court on Friday, a not guilty plea was entered on his behalf. Charged with a single count of armed robbery charge, he was ordered held without bail pending a dangerousness hearing on Nov. 16.

In 2015, Espinosa was among more than two dozen Framingham firefighters honored for helping rescue a woman trapped underwater in a car in a pond off Gates Street in June 2015. In an August 2010 story, the Daily News interviewed Espinosa and other members of Delta 1-181 Infantry regiment of the Massachusetts Army National Guard who were being deployed to Afghanistan. The story says it was Espinosa's second tour overseas.

Prosecutor Timothy Cochrane said Friday that about $1,000 was stolen in the robbery. Espinosa admitted to carrying out the heist when he was interrogated by Natick police, Cochrane told Judge Martine Carroll. He told authorities he had spent the money by the time he was arrested, according to a police report filed in court.

Natick police say Espinosa was identified by "several" people as the man seen in bank surveillance footage. RMV records also show that Espinosa owns a grey, 2012 Jeep Patriot similar to the vehicle seen in those recordings, authorities said.

Police removed two shotguns, a pair of semi-automatic rifles and a set of brass knuckles from Espinosa's home, according to the police report. They also seized a pair of sunglasses, a pellet gun, a ski mask and zip ties as potential evidence, the report indicates.

According to police, the robber told a teller that he had a gun, but did not show one.

"He put a bag on the counter and told her to give him the money with no dye packs," Natick police spokesman Lt. Cara Rossi said.

No one was injured during the episode, which forced authorities to issue a temporary shelter in place order at the nearby Bennett-Hemenway Elementary School on Evergreen Road.

Shortly after the robbery, police issued an alert describing the thief as a white man in his 30s, about 5 feet, 10 inches tall. He was wearing a grey hooded sweatshirt with a black T-shirt underneath, a black scally cap, black pants and black sneakers.

Security cameras caught the man getting into a dark-colored SUV - possibly a Jeep - that took off on Rte. 9.

Framingham Fire Chief Joseph Hicks did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment on the arrest. The town"s director of human resources said Espinosa has been placed on administrative leave.

Espinosa was hired by the department in August 2008. He earned close to $68,775 last year, according to the most recent salary figures released by the town.

In November 2015, he was among 24 Framingham firefighters who were honored during a Statehouse ceremony for rescuing a woman who was trapped inside a car submerged in a small pond. Brother and sister Brian Archila and Jennifer Archila died in the June 7, 2015 crash on Gates Street near Framingham Country Club.

Rescuers arrived and heard the lone survivor calling for help. The woman was hypothermic, with her head in a small air pocket. Rescuers had to stabilize the two-door car and cut in through the trunk to free her. Espinosa assisted as one of six firefighters assigned to Drive Rescue 1.

Man robs Natick bank November 9, 2017
Norman Miller 508-626-3823 Metrowest Daily News
Natick police is looking for the man in this photo, who robbed a bank. [Courtesy photo]

NATICK - Police are on the lookout for a man who robbed the Citizens Banks at the Super Stop & Shop on Rte. 9 Thursday morning.

The man entered the bank around 11:10 a.m. and demanded that a teller fill a bag with cash, police said.

The robber got away with an undisclosed amount of money from the bank at the 9/27 Plaza, police spokeswoman Lt. Cara Rossi said.

The man told the teller he had a gun, but did not show one.

"He put a bag on the counter and told her to give him the money with no dye packs," Rossi said.

Initially, witnesses said he ran in an unknown direction. However, security cameras caught the man getting into a dark-colored SUV that took off on Rte. 9, the lieutenant said.

No one was injured.

The robber is described as being white, in his 30s and 5 feet 10 inches tall. The man was wearing a grey hooded-sweatshirt with a black T-shirt underneath, a black scally cap, black pants and black sneakers.

During the robbery, the Bennett-Hemenway Elementary School on Evergreen Road went into shelter in place. The school was dismissed at its regular time.

Anyone with information about the robbery is asked to call the Natick Police detective bureau at 508-647-9520.

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