Cab driver tells of unsettling ride from bank-robber suspect

Gary Levin was sitting in his cab Wedesday afternoon outside The Ritz-Carlton on Avery Street when a long-haired woman dressed in black rushed in and told him to take her to the Pine Street Inn.

Right away, Levin recalled in an interview today, something seemed strange: Who asks to go from a posh hotel to a homeless shelter?

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Guessing she might be a hotel employee down on her luck, Levin switched on the meter and headed toward Harrison Avenue, unaware that his fare had just robbed a bank.

At about 3 p.m., the woman, 30-year-old Jasmin Rivera, had gone inside a Citizens Bank branch on Avenue de Lafayette and handed the teller two notes filled with rambling threats, according to a police report. “Please put the money in the bag, I have a gun, do not yell....”

Rivera, who is homeless, left with $652, police said.

She appeared at Boston Municipal Court today on a charge of armed robbery.

As officers rushed to bank, the woman sat in the cab, saying little at first.

But when Levin was about to turn on Avenue De Lafayette, she ducked in her seat and yelled, “ ‘Don’t go there! Don’t go there!’ ”

Levin took a left on Tremont Street. There, he saw at least two cruisers speeding down toward Avery Street.

“ ‘That’s for me,’ ” Levin said the woman told him.

“I thought maybe she was busted for drugs or something,” he said.

Levin, who is 33 and lives in East Boston, has driven a cab on and off for nine years, picking up drunken revelers, drug dealers, and addicts.

An erratic woman in her 30s was not too alarming, he said.

Then she said: “ ‘You don’t realize what I just did. I just robbed a bank!’ ”

“I’m freaking out and I’m thinking ‘she’s crazy. She’s nuts,’” Levin said.

He said he did not believe her until she pulled out a black leather pouch and brought out a fistful of tens and 20s.

“It really hit me,” Levin said. “I’m thinking she has a weapon. Maybe she’s going to rob me. So now, I’m starting to panic.”

The woman told Levin to drop her off at the Lenox Street housing development.

Levin said he tried to stay calm, wondering if he should order her out of the cab or do as she says.

“I had about 40 different thoughts in my head,” he said. “My first thought was just get out. When you’re in that situation you’re just freaking out ... It was like a movie.”

He took her where she wanted to go, hoping it was the right decision. Then she asked him for his phone number, he said.

“ ‘I’m going to hit another one,’” she told him. “ ‘I’m going to hit another bank.’”

If he acted as her getaway driver, she told him, he was in for a big tip.

“I said, ‘ma’am I’m not giving you my phone number. I’m not getting involved. I’m dropping you off. Good luck with whatever you’ve got to do,’” Levin recalled.

When they arrived at the housing project, the meter was at $10.80. She handed him three fives and five singles, a tip Levin recalled seemed rather small given the circumstances.

“I’m thinking, ‘If I’d robbed a bank, I’d give the cab driver at least $100,’ ” Levin said.

The woman walked out, said thank you and Levin peeled away.

Immediately, he saw an unmarked cruiser on the corner of Lenox and Washington Street and told the two plainclothes officers what just happened.

Police said they found Rivera at Ramsay Park in Roxbury, handing out dollar bills to several children.

Levin said one of the officers he flagged down approached him, shook his hand and said, “Hey, buddy, good job. You just nailed a bank robber. Thank you very much.’”

The officers confiscated the $20 the woman gave him.

“I got nothing,” Levin said.

Rivera met with a clinician in court today who recomended she go to Worcester State Hospital for a mental evaluation. Authorities did not find a gun on Rivera but she was charged with armed robbery because she threatened the teller with a firearm.

She will be back in court Jan. 17.

Levin was back at work today.

Maria Cramer can be reached at mcramer@globe.com