FBI gets clear picture of 'Bicycle Bandit'

March 22, 1995|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Sun Staff Writer

The robberies began Jan. 26, when a man entered a NationsBank branch in Arbutus, demanded an immediate withdrawal of the bank's cash into his duffel bag and fled on a shiny red bicycle.

The scenario has been repeated three times -- most recently Saturday -- and now, armed with a clear picture of the man's face, the FBI is hoping to locate the bank robber dubbed the "Bicycle Bandit."

"This man could be from anywhere, because it's clear he's not just hitting the bank down the street from where he lives," said Special Agent Andrew F. Manning, an FBI spokesman.

"At least we've got a really good picture. Now if only somebody recognizes him."

Authorities believe that since the Jan. 26 robbery, the Bicycle Bandit has robbed a NationsBank branch in Eldersburg on Feb. 4, a First National Bank of Maryland branch in Timonium on Feb. 21 and a First National Bank of Maryland branch in Mount Airy on Saturday.

Each time, Mr. Manning said, the bandit stood in line until a teller called him to the counter. On three occasions, he presented a duffel bag, told the teller he had a gun and demanded a bagful of cash.

At NationsBank in Timonium, he told the teller he was a policeman and displayed a badge -- then demanded money and fled.

"The teller didn't ever believe he was a cop," Mr. Manning said. "She knew [from the start] she was being robbed."

On Saturday, a store owner said he saw a man riding a bicycle in circles around the Mount Airy Shopping Center shortly before the 11:12 a.m. bank robbery.

"I thought that was pretty strange, somebody his age riding up on the sidewalks like that," said Francis Schmitz, owner of Mount Airy Liquors.

"I was going to go out and tell him to leave. By the time I decided to do that, he sped away."

On Saturday, Mr. Manning said, the bandit escaped on a beige or white bicycle. In two of the other robberies, he took off on a red bike.

Mr. Manning said the man might first drive toward his target, get on a bicycle, then ride back to his car. No bicycles have been found by police, and the man has left no notes or fingerprints.

He has escaped each time with about $1,000 to $2,000, the agent said.

The Bicycle Bandit is described as a white male, 5 feet 8 inches tall, between 35 and 40 years old with brown hair. He has worn a gray hooded sweat shirt and a blue mask in some of the robberies. In Mount Airy, he wore a gray and white sweat jacket with a red stripe across the chest and a red bottom.

Bank robberies are on the rise after a year's lull, Mr. Manning said. Last year's 253 bank robberies in Maryland represented a 24 percent decrease from 1993's record of 333. In Baltimore last year, there were 52 bank robberies, down from 1993's 116. Baltimore County had 96 bank holdups last year, Carroll County had four, Anne Arundel had 24, Howard had four, and Harford had eight.

"But 1995 is off to a fast start," Mr. Manning said. Through the end of February -- the latest period for which the FBI has complete statistics -- there have been 44 bank robberies in the Metropolitan Baltimore area.

Anyone with information about the Bicycle Bandit should call the FBI's Baltimore field office at 265-8080.

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