WEST LONG BRANCH — It was almost five years ago that police responded to a silent alarm and learned a bandit climbed through a ceiling vent and made off with about $700,000 from an unlocked safe inside a check-cashing business in West Long Branch, New Jersey. 

More than three years went by before an unnamed witness gave a detective previously unknown details of the heist, including the name of the person who committed it and that he and two others helped the bandit to cover it up.

Fast-forward almost two more years, and acting Monmouth County prosecutor Raymond S. Santiago Friday announced that the alleged robber has been caught.

Travis A. Bryant, 41, of Jackson, New Jersey, was arrested and charged with robbery, burglary and possession of an imitation handgun, Santiago said. 

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The charges stem from a heist on Nov. 2, 2017, when West Long Branch police received a report about 9 a.m. that a silent alarm had been activated at a check-cashing business on Route 36, according to a news release from the prosecutor’s office.

Police learned then that a man wearing sunglasses and a hooded sweatshirt pulled tightly around his face entered the business when no customers were present and used a ladder to access and climb through ceiling ducts to a secure area for employees where cash was stored in an unlocked safe, the news release said.

After the man fell through the ceiling, he ordered the lone employee to the ground. When she refused, he motioned to his sweatshirt, leading the employee to believe he had a gun, herding her into a bathroom, according to an affidavit of probable cause to charge Bryant with the crimes.

The employee came out of the bathroom after a short while and saw the bandit fleeing in a white work van, it said. She gave police a description of the bandit and told them that $700,000 had been stolen from the safe, which was typically kept unlocked in the secure area reserved for employees, the affidavit said. The culprit also stole the employee’s cellphone and purse, the affidavit said.