For nearly two years, the bank robber with a fondness for berets eluded the FBI.
Dubbed "Pepe" by the FBI, he pulled one holdup after another in the Baltimore area, racking up a total of 29. And then, early this year, the string of robberies suddenly stopped.
Yesterday, the FBI explained why: The man they sought in connection with the 19-month bank robbery spree had been sitting in a Maryland prison in Hagerstown, serving a one-year sentence for malicious destruction.
A correctional officer at the Maryland Correction Training Center identified one of the inmates as Pepe from a bank surveillance photo the FBI had circulated in the state prison system.
James Leon Anderson, 31, of Baltimore was indicted yesterday by a federal grand jury on bank robbery charges in connection with nine area holdups, according to Bobby R. Gillham, a special agent who heads the Baltimore FBI office.
In addition, Mr. Anderson's half brother, Gary Harrison, 19, of Baltimore, was indicted in six of the robberies, Agent Gillham said.
The string of robberies began in 1989 and ended with a Jan. 11 holdup at a sav
ings and loan association in the 1700 block of Reisterstown Road, the FBI said. The robber -- who always wore a hat and often a beret -- was hitting a bank in Baltimore or in Baltimore and Anne Arundel counties about once every two to three weeks, officials said.
In June, the FBI began circulating a picture in Maryland prisons and state probation offices in an effort to track down the suspect.
"When we're not coming up with somebody, we try and reach as far as we can," explained Mel Fleming, the special agent in charge of the FBI's robbery unit.