Does a Polite Note to the Teller Mean You’re Not Robbing the Bank?

A Very Polite Robbery

On the afternoon of May 6, when 23-year-old unemployed aspiring rap star Dominyk Antonio Alfonseca found himself in Virginia Beach, Virginia and running short of cash, he knew just what to do. After locating what he thought was the most impressive-looking bank in the area, a Towne Bank branch fronted by two-story white colonnades, he walked inside and handed a teller a handwritten, haphazardly spelled note.

It read: “I need 150,000 Bonds Right NOW!!” To avoid rudeness, the note added “Please,” then continued by observing that, “Police take 3 to 4 minites to get here, I would appriceate if you Ring the alarm a minute after I am gone.” It next added the teller should “Make sure the money doesn’t BLOW UP ON MY WAY OUT,” then closed with a sideways winking smiley face emoji.

The wording is not in dispute, because the young man thoughtfully took a photo of the note, and posted it to his Instagram account. He did the same with two short videotapes he made inside the bank, one showing the teller reading the note, and another showing her stuffing banded stacks of currency into the gym bag he had handed her.

How long it took the teller to ring the alarm remains uncertain, though it could not have been very long, since in about 20 minutes Virginia Beach police had arrested Alfonseca nearby and confiscated a cash-filled gym bag. He was charged with robbery — and then the story began to get even stranger.

In interviews from the city jail lock-up with at least three local TV stations, Alfonseca denied he had robbed the bank, or in fact committed any crime. He pointed to the polite tone of his note, including use of “please.” He also noted he had not carried a weapon or worn a mask, had waited his turn in line, and had recorded his contact with the teller.

Alfonseca told one local reporter he had been “basically asking permission for money,” and said he felt he was “being charged without reason.” In his view, robbery means “going in and demanding something and taking the money,” which he denies doing.

Expanding on that logic in lock-up interviews, the suspect argued, had the incident been a real robbery, “I don’t think I would videotape it, post the picture of the letter and do that all to come to jail.” He did not fully explain his actual intentions, but one interviewer suggested, rather than money, he wanted to gain exposure for his Instagram account.

Police apparently had reviewed his Instagram postings but offered no official comment. One local TV station said it contained “amateur rap music videos and other bizarre missives” which Alfonseca had typed.

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