Police catch dental clinic robber copycat in Rizal
The police on Thursday announced the arrest of a copycat criminal believed to have robbed several women dentists inside their clinics in Rodriguez, Rizal.
Senior Supt. Manuel Prieto, Rizal police director, told the Inquirer that 24-year-old Mario Lebron was picked up by San Mateo policemen on Tuesday afternoon. Charges were filed against him Thursday with the Taytay Prosecutor’s Office.
According to Prieto, Lebron was reportedly behind at least three dental clinic robberies in Rodriguez town.
“He was positively identified by the victims themselves,” the police official said.
He added that Lebron would barge into dental clinics staffed by women dentists and then rob them at knife-point.
“He would declare a holdup, get the money and before escaping, tie his victims to prevent them from going after him,” Prieto said.
His modus operandi was somewhat similar to that of Albert Galang dela Cruz who was arrested by operatives from the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) in Las Piñas City on Sunday.
During interrogation, Dela Cruz owned up to 19 of the 23 dental clinic robberies recorded by the NCRPO in several cities in Metro Manila over several months.
Just interested in the money
But unlike Dela Cruz, who reportedly molested or raped some of his victims at gunpoint, Lebron was interested only in money.
Another difference, Prieto pointed out, was that Lebron did not pose as a patient and that he armed himself with a kitchen knife.
Before his arrest, Lebron had robbed a laundry shop in San Mateo town. He stabbed the security guard on duty and fled but was caught by responding policemen.
Prieto said that when he was cornered, Lebron stabbed himself with his knife in a desperate attempt to kill himself although the police managed to subdue him and take him to Amang Memorial Medical Center in Marikina City for treatment.
According to the police official, Lebron may have decided to target a laundry shop instead of a dental clinic because he knew that police operatives were closing in on him.
Earlier, Rodriguez police chief Supt. Rommel Estolano released a sketch of the robber preying on dental clinics in the area based on the descriptions given by victims.
Dentists thank police
Meanwhile, following Dela Cruz’s arrest, the Philippine Dental Association (PDA) expressed its thanks to law enforcers as it urged them to continue going after other copycats.
In a statement sent to the Inquirer, PDA president Roberto Tajonera said he and the members of the group were grateful that “no less than NCRPO Director Alan Purisima has given orders to his men: Chief Insp. Ferjen Torred, Chief Insp. Redentor Agcio and NCRPO intelligence chief, Senior Supt. Conrado Capa, to exert all possible means to get the criminals.”
The PDA also thanked Manila Police District director Chief Supt. Roberto Rongavilla for going out of his way to meet with the PDA executive board to share with them crime prevention tips which were disseminated to PDA chapters nationwide.
“Not to be discounted is the show of support expressed by Justice Secretary Leila de Lima who gave instruction to the National Bureau of Investigation to look into this problem and submit a report to her every 15 days,” Tajonera said.
He added that the law enforcers had been coordinating with the PDA legal affairs committee and a newly convened PDA ad hoc committee on the security and safety of dentists.
In addition, the PDA expressed hope that Dela Cruz and his cohort, Ronald Bulalacao Policarpio, would remain behind bars.
Policarpio, who admitted to serving as a lookout in two of the 23 robberies, was the first to be arrested by the police in Quezon City.
During questioning, he told them where Dela Cruz could be found, leading to the latter’s arrest days later.
Cases to be amended
“Some criminal cases have long been filed against them [Dela Cruz, Policarpio] in different courts and in the provinces but they would be amended to include the true name of the suspects,” Tajonera told the Inquirer in a phone interview.
He also assured female members of the PDA that they could now breathe easier because “the worst” perpetrator had been captured although he stressed that both they and the police need to remain on guard because there were other copycats who needed to be caught.
“We are not here to celebrate the successful ending [of the series of robbery cases] for there may still be some suspects, a ‘copycat’ trying to prey on some helpless people. But we believe that crime does not pay and that the Omnipotent God will not shield these criminals from their wrongdoings,” Tajonera said.
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