The 51-year-old man accused of robbing the Deerwood Bank branch in Garrison by gunpoint last week allegedly got away with 500 $1 bills, according to court documents.

James Richard Ardito of Coon Rapids was charged Wednesday, July 29, in Crow Wing County District Court in Brainerd with two felonies — first-degree aggravated robbery and being in possession of a firearm as a felon. The charges stem from an armed robbery reported Friday morning at the Garrison Deerwood Branch.

A bank employee was proceeding to unlock the bank at the north door access point, when a suspect emerged from the bushes near the door, holding a handgun and pointing it at the bank employee, according to the criminal complaint filed in the case. The suspect demanded the employee open the door and disarm the security system. The suspect threatened he would shoot the employee if he did not comply, the complaint stated.

The employee and suspect entered the building. The employee gave the suspect the cash from the teller drawer, which consisted of 500 $1 bills. The suspect demanded the employee open the bank vault. The employee advised he was unable to, as it requires two employees to do so, the complaint stated. The suspect went into the bank manager's office, at which time the employee fled the building and called 911.

The bank manager arrived on scene and accessed the bank security surveillance system and was able to provide that information to the Crow Wing County Sheriff’s investigator. The sheriff's office published a photo of the suspect from the video and received several reports, including one from the suspect’s federal parole agent, identifying the suspect as Ardito. The agent advised that Ardito had recently absconded from federal supervision. Ardito is currently under federal supervision after being convicted of robbing the same bank in 2007.

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Ardito was arrested Monday, July 27, at a residence in Andover. Sheriff deputies obtained and executed a search warrant for the phone Ardito had in his possession when he was arrested. Phone tower records indicate the phone was in the area of the Deerwood bank during the robbery. The phone records also indicated the phone was in Andover when authorities apprehended Ardito.

Ardito has convictions for aggravated robbery in 2010, 1993 and 1988. He also has a second-degree burglary conviction in 2004.

Ardito appeared for his first court hearing before Judge Charles Halverson. Halverson set unconditional bail at $150,000, or $75,000 with conditions to include he may not leave Minnesota, can have no contact with the victims, cannot enter any bars or liquor stores, or possess alcohol or drugs or firearms/dangerous weapons.

His next court hearing is scheduled at 3:15 p.m. Aug. 17.

Criminal past

Ardito was previously convicted for armed robbery of the same bank in 2007. According to court records, the 51-year-old man was charged with aggravated first-degree robbery in September 2008 in Crow Wing County District Court. In this incident, he was accused of robbing the same bank in Garrison, then called Deerwood National Bank. He approached the counter and asked for bill denominations of 100s, 50s and 20s. When the teller asked what he meant, he pulled a gun from his pocket and pointed it at her, the complaint stated. She then began to take money from her drawer. The gunman then ran from the bank.

According to a Brainerd Dispatch story published Jan. 27, 2009, Ardito pleaded guilty to one count of armed robbery in federal court in Duluth. Ardito, a resident of Coon Rapids at that time, was convicted of armed bank robbery, admitted to using force, violence and intimidation to take close to $3,000 from a teller at the bank. He also admitted he assaulted and put in jeopardy the life of another person by use of a dangerous weapon in committing the bank robbery.

Ardito was arrested a year after the 2007 armed robbery. Authorities were led to Ardito after receiving a tip from a confidential informant. He was charged by the Crow Wing County Attorney's Office with felony first-degree aggravated robbery.

According to another Brainerd Dispatch report, Ardito escaped custody in October 2018 from a supervised halfway house in Minneapolis while he was scheduled for supervised release from the 2009 bank robbery conviction.