ATM robbers struck 5 times in past week

February 02, 1994|By Scott Higham | Scott Higham,Sun Staff Writer

Police yesterday linked two more abduction-style holdups to a group that has been preying on Baltimore's affluent neighborhoods -- raising the number of those ATM-related robberies to five within a week.

The robbers, who were still on the streets last night, are more violent and more prolific than police previously believed. They put a pistol to the head of a woman in Bolton Hill last Friday. And they assaulted a man -- a private security guard for the Baltimore Police Department -- in the same neighborhood Monday morning.

Since Jan. 25, police said, they have received reports of five robberies in three different neighborhoods: Federal Hill, Canterbury-Homewood near Johns Hopkins University and Bolton Hill.

With only a couple of exceptions, the robberies followed the same script: The robbers brandished weapons, covered the heads of their victims and forced them into cars. Then they demanded their victims' automated teller machine code numbers and withdrew money from their accounts.

"It's so depressing," said state Sen. Julian L. Lapides, a Baltimore Democrat who lives in Bolton Hill. "It's outrageous to live in a city where you can't walk out your front door."

Police investigators found the Bolton Hill cases as they sifted through their unsolved robbery case files. On Monday, police said they knew of three abduction-robbery cases. By Tuesday, investigators found reports of the two other robberies.

To coordinate the cases, the Police Department decided yesterday to bring in its criminal investigative unit, adding more detectives and expertise to the investigation, police spokesman Sam Ringgold said.

So far, none of the victims has been seriously injured. But Barry Schreiber, an expert on ATM-related crime, says that could change.

"You always worry about the possibility of escalation in these cases. Your chances as a hooded hostage are much worse than as a non-hooded hostage. You're no longer a person, you're a body," said the criminal justice professor at St. Cloud University in Minnesota.

The first reported abduction-robbery occurred Jan. 25, outside the Federal Hill home of James S. Keat, a Baltimore Sun editor. The robbers wrapped cloth around his face, pushed him into a waiting car, and ordered him to turn over his ATM card and code number. They withdrew $740 from his account.

On Friday, the robbers stepped behind 23-year-old Molly Quaid in the 1800 block of Bolton St. around 3 a.m. and ordered her to take off her coat. They pulled the coat over her head, put a pistol to her head, forced her into a car and ordered her to disclose her ATM code number. They withdrew $400 and also took a payroll check.

Monday, the robbers struck again -- three times.

At 4:30 a.m., they abducted Jennifer Bohan, 19, a Johns Hopkins undergraduate, from the 3400 block of N. Charles St. They put a pillowcase over her head, pushed her into a car and demanded her wallet, ATM card and code number. There was no money in her account, though.

At 6 a.m., the robbers tried to abduct Carl Leitch, 34, a Wells Fargo security guard assigned to protect Baltimore's police headquarters. He was in the 1600 block of Bolton St. when a man approached him from behind and brandished a sawed-off shotgun.

"Give me your bank card and the number," the gunman demanded, according to police reports.

One robber hit Mr. Leitch as he handed over his ATM card and wallet. He said yesterday he wasn't sure if he was struck with the shotgun or someone's fist. When the robbers tried to pull a pillowcase over his head, Mr. Leitch fought back and they sped away.

"I don't want to talk about it," he said yesterday.

The robbers wasted little time finding their next target.

Less than a half-hour later, they abducted Cristian Tampe, 24, a Johns Hopkins medical student, from the 3900 block of Canterbury Road.

They pulled a pillowcase over his head and forced him to turn over his ATM card and code in the back seat of the car. After withdrawing $240 from Mr. Tampe's account, the robbers released him.

WEEK OF ABDUCTIONS

A chronology of the recent string of ATM robberies:

1 Tuesday, Jan. 25, 11:30 P.M.:

James S. Keat, 64, is abducted from 300 block of E. Hamburg St. in Federal Hill.

2 Friday Jan. 28, 2:40 A.M.:

Molly Quaid, 23, is abducted in the 1800 block of Bolton St. in Bolton Hill.

3 Monday, Jan. 31, 4:30 A.M.:

Jeniffer Bohan, 19, is abducted from the 3400 block of N. Charles St. in the Canterbury-Homewood section of the city.

4 Monday, Jan. 31, 6 A.M.:

Carl Leitch, 34, is assaulted in the 1600 block of Bolton St.

5 Monday, Jan. 31, 6:30 A.M.:

Cristian Tamper, 24, is abducted from the 3900 block of Canterbury Rd.

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