Elginite charged with 13 armed robberies
By Dave Gathman email@example.com June 29, 2012 12:50PM
Fernando D. Zavala / photo from Aurora police
Updated: August 2, 2012 10:26AM
ELGIN — Most people visit payday loan businesses to borrow money for a few weeks until they can pay it back. Police believe Fernando Zavala did so some 13 times in towns all over the Elgin-Aurora area, but took out his cash with a gun instead of a pen — a plastic gun.
Zavala, 38, of the 200 block of North Gifford Street in Elgin, has been charged in Elgin with six counts of aggravated robbery, police announced Friday. He also has been charged with two robberies in Aurora and with robberies in East Dundee, DeKalb, Hillside, Streamwood and Hoffman Estates.
Elgin Police Lt. Sean Rafferty said that in nearly all the incidents, the robber entered cash advance loan stores, displayed a handgun and demanded cash. An undisclosed amount of currency was taken from each location.
Rafferty said Zavala initially was arrested on June 22 by the Aurora Police Department as he was fleeing a robbery he had just committed. During the subsequent investigation, Zavala was connected to a separate armed robbery in Aurora.
Aurora detectives alerted Elgin detectives because Zavala matched the description of the offender from several Elgin-area robberies. Elgin detectives then interviewed the suspect at the Aurora police station, and Rafferty said Zavala implicated himself in the following six Elgin robberies, including two businesses that he allegedly robbed twice each:
Aug. 14, 2011: La Hacienda, 836 Walnut Ave.
Oct. 27, 2011: Armando’s Supermarket, 925 N. Liberty St.
Nov. 11, 2011: Pay Day Loan Store, 268 S. State St.
Nov. 30, 2011: Cash Store, 300 S. McLean Blvd.
March 7, 2012: Pay Day Loan Store, 268 S. State St. (again).
May 25, 2012: Cash Store, 300 S. McLean Blvd. (again).
In East Dundee, Police Chief Terry Mee said Zavala is believed to have robbed the Check Into Cash store in River Valley Square shopping center on Jan. 18. Mee said that robber confronted employees with a gun and demanded money, leaving the store with several thousand dollars.
Caught in Aurora
An Aurora police spokesman said Zavala was taken into custody about 4:30 p.m. June 22 after officers responded to a hold-up alarm at the Check-N-Go in the 1200 block of North Lake Street. Employees there said a man had entered the store, displayed a gun and demanded money from two female clerks. One clerk activated a panic alarm, prompting an immediate police response.
After taking money from the cashier drawers, employees told police, the suspect ordered the employees to open the safe. But when the man learned the safe was equipped with a 10-minute delay, he fled out the rear door.
By that time, Aurora police officers were arriving. When one of the clerks told them of the suspect’s path of flight, an officer ran toward the back of the building and saw the man enter a green minivan. The officer repeatedly ordered the suspect to stop but the man drove around the officer and fled, police said. Other officers in squad cars then pursued Zavala northbound on Lake Street, eastbound on Sullivan and southbound on Aurora Avenue, police said. He then turned onto Clearwater Street, where police took him into custody, according to police.
Officers said they recovered the weapon used in the robbery — a toy plastic gun — along with $1,070 in cash.
Upon questioning Zavala, Aurora detectives said, they were able to connect him to a similar robbery about three hours earlier on June 22 at the Payday Loan Store in the 900 block of East New York Street.
Zavala was brought to a bond call before a Kane County judge, who set his bail at $1.2 million. To get out of jail, Zavala would have to put up 10 percent of that, or $120,000, in cash. He was being held in the county jail pending another court hearing.