Nov. 28-The suspect in two robberies - including last week's holdup at Members First Credit Union in Cumru Township in which he carried away tens of thousands of dollars stuffed into two bags - is in Berks County Prison following his arrest in a Wyomissing hotel room on Thanksgiving.
Reading police on Thursday arrested 32-year-old Mikal Portalatin, no permanent address, after learning he was staying in a hotel on Woodland Road, Cumru police said in a criminal complaint. City investigators previously had obtained an arrest warrant for Portalatin in the July 27 holdup of the Citgo gas station at 225 Buttonwood St.
Portalatin is accused of robbing the Citgo and firing a pistol at an employee who chased him as he fled. No one was injured, but police recovered a .40-caliber round, and the employee later identified Portalatin as the suspect who robbed the store of about $1,000.
According to Cumru police, Portalatin had two black masks in the room where he was staying and was wearing similar clothing to that of the suspect during the Members First robbery.
Investigators recovered a total of $36,420, composed entirely of $20 bills -1,821 of them - that he is believed to have stolen at Members First.
The money was in a fabric bag similar to the one the suspect used to carry the enormous haul from the credit union during the robbery, investigators said.
Portalatin, who served a prison sentence for taking part in a home-invasion robbery in Reading in 2013, remained in Berks County Prison in lieu of a total of $550,000 bail to await hearings following arraignment in Reading Central Court on the two new robbery cases.
According to investigators:
At about 11:30 a.m. Nov. 21, Portalatin entered Members First in the Shillington Commons shopping center along East Lancaster Avenue, wearing a skull mask, a black hoodie and sweatpants.
He pointed a handgun at two tellers and ordered them to take him to the vault. He handed them a red plastic bag and a cloth bag that was white with black markings. He ordered the tellers to fill the bags with money. They complied and returned the bags to the suspect, who then ordered them to their knees before he fled the store.
It was determined that the robber got tens of thousands of dollars in various denominations, including $80,000 in $20 bills alone.
Police obtained security camera images of the robbery and distributed still images of the suspect via local news media.
Reading police identified Portalatin as the suspect in the Citgo robbery based in large part on security camera images. It showed the suspect making his way behind the counter and pointing a handgun at the clerk. While holding the man at gunpoint, Portalatin took an estimated $1,000 from the register and ran out of the store.
Another store employee briefly chased the suspect through the parking lot. During the chase, Portalatin turned, pointed the gun at the victim and fired a single shot. The round struck the ground several feet away from the employee, who immediately ceased chasing the suspect.
Police used footage from security camera to trace his movements as he fled.
Criminal Investigator Trevor Atkins recognized the person in the photo as Portalatin from prior contacts with him. A store employee also identified Portalatin as the robbery suspect form a photo lineup.
Police have said the Members First holdup is similar to the Nov. 3 robbery of Riverfront Federal Credit Union, 733 Lancaster Ave., based on the physical description of the perpetrator and his methods. No charges have been filed in that robbery.