Local and federal authorities have renewed calls for any information leading to the arrest of a serial bank robber still at large who, in the last half of 2006, hit four banks in Vienna and one in Sterling.
The suspect, a "well-dressed, clean-cut, polite" white male believed to be in his late 20s, has been connected by law enforcement officers with half of Vienna’s eight bank robberies in 2006, a year in which a record number of bank robberies occurred in Northern Virginia, according to the FBI.
"The biggest weapon we have for finding this guy is the public," said FBI special agent Jeff Johannes, bank robbery division coordinator for the Washington, D.C. field office. "To this day, a large number of bank robbers are caught as a result of a tip from a concerned citizen."
While all bank robbers are considered dangerous, repeat offenders are of special interest to authorities, as they may move into more dangerous activities in the future, according to Johannes.
"Often when we see a repeat bank robber, we see someone who is a professional criminal," he said. "Often these people will eventually expand to more criminal activity … so it is very important for us to get them off the street as soon as possible."
THE BANK ROBBERIES started a little before 2 p.m. on July 20 of last year, when a white male dressed in a dark jacket, sunglasses and a white, button-up shirt stepped into the SunTrust Bank on the 500 block of East Maple Avenue in Vienna and quietly handed the teller a note.
"‘Give me all the money, no buttons,’ is what he basically says in his notes," said Det. Gary Lose of the Vienna Police Department. "He likes to act as if he’s writing a check and he’ll write out the note and hand it to the teller."
After collecting more than $6,000, the suspect then calmly exited the bank and drove off in a late 1990s dark-colored Acura sedan. While he has never shown a weapon he has implied to some that he has one, Lose said.
What would follow were four more robberies, three occurring along Maple Avenue in downtown Vienna and one in the Countryside Shopping Center in Sterling, occurring typically on Friday at a rate of about once every four to six weeks, lasting until Dec. 7. On his final robbery, the suspect evaded a net that had been set up between Vienna police and the FBI by striking the bank one day earlier than was initially estimated, according to Lose.
While the suspect’s second attempt on a BB&T Bank on the 400 black of East Maple Avenue resulted in failure after a dye-pack hidden within the money was set off when he exited the bank, he would eventually go on to steal more than $15,000 over the course of the robberies, Lose said.
All of the banks in Vienna that were targeted by the robber declined to comment on the case, citing corporate policy.
THE FBI, Vienna Police Department and Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office have been able to collect notes left behind by the suspect, video surveillance footage, eyewitness descriptions of the man and even fingerprints left behind on notes. Due to a lack of records of the suspect’s fingerprints in federal, state and local databases, a match has not been made, according to Lose.
Authorities have not come to any definitive conclusion for the suspect’s motives, especially when considering that he has apparently never been arrested prior to these robberies, as evidenced by the lack of fingerprints on file, Lose said.
"It’s just hard to believe that this guy woke up one day and started out doing bank robberies," he said. "I think he’s just getting lucky, because he doesn’t seem to be very professional."
Authorities believe that the man may live in the Ashburn area of Loudoun County and has either lived or worked in the Vienna area, based on his apparent knowledge of the town’s side streets and the robbery in the Sterling area.
As it appears as if the robberies have stopped, the suspect’s capture depends on a tip from someone in the public who recognizes him or the suspect being arrested on an unrelated charge, Lose said.
"Everyone describes him as just a normal kid, he doesn’t look bad … so he could be anybody," he said. "He’ll either end up getting arrested and fingerprinted for something else … or if it was the thrill that got him [robbing banks], it’ll come back and we’ll get him then."