Police seek bank robber in ape mask

Disguise could be link to other cases

January 24, 2002|By Julie Bykowicz | Julie Bykowicz,SUN STAFF

A bank robber who dresses like a character from Planet of the Apes has the FBI and police from four Maryland counties, including Howard and Anne Arundel, on the hunt for him.

A man with his face covered by a monkey or ape mask walked into Citizens National Bank in the 5800 block of Clarksville Square in Clarksville just before noon Saturday and demanded money, the FBI's Baltimore field office said.

The robber did not display a weapon and fled with an undisclosed amount of cash, Howard County police said. His means of escape was not identified.

Less than two hours earlier, a man wearing the same kind of mask had held up Citizens National Bank on Cronson Boulevard in Crofton, Anne Arundel County police said.

About 10:15 a.m., the masked man handed a note to the teller indicating that he intended to rob the bank and that he had a gun, police said.

After receiving an undisclosed amount of cash, the man fled south on Route 3 in a red Ford minivan with Maryland plates, police said.

The mask and method used in the robberies are similar to those used in another pair of robberies this month in Montgomery and Prince George's counties, authorities said.

Special Agent Peter A. Gulotta Jr., a spokesman for the FBI's Baltimore field office, said the unusual mask will help authorities in their effort to link the bank robberies.

"We in law enforcement have never professed that criminals are the most intelligent beings," Gulotta said. "Why they do certain things, we have no idea."

Gulotta recalled a case several years ago in which a man painted his face like a clown before robbing a bank in St. Mary's County.

In 1999, a Laurel man dressed as Abraham Lincoln robbed at least 10 businesses in Howard, Anne Arundel, Prince George's and Montgomery counties.

Kevin Andre Gibson - "Dishonest Abe," as he was dubbed by police - was sentenced to 30 years in prison in November 2000.

The "Planet of the Apes" robberies began Jan. 3 when a man held up Baltimore Bank and Trust on 52nd Avenue in Hyattsville, Gulotta said.

The man slipped a teller a note demanding money and displayed what appeared to be an explosive device, Gulotta said.

The man fled in a truck that had been stolen from Washington, and a dye pack exploded in the stolen money, Gulotta said. Police recovered the truck, he said.

The next day, a man wearing a Planet of the Apes mask robbed SunTrust Bank on Lamberton Drive in Silver Spring, Montgomery County police said. The man claimed to be armed with dynamite, police said.

The masked man was accompanied by another man who had covered his face with a black wool hat and scarf, police said. He was armed with a handgun, police said.

The pair fled in a Chevy Tahoe, which was found unoccupied two hours later, police said.

Gulotta said the four robberies reflect a marked increase in area bank robberies this year. Last year, the FBI tracked 170 bank robberies in Baltimore, Baltimore and Howard counties, nearly 100 more than in 2000.

"It has nothing to do with the economy," Gulotta said. "It has everything to do with the narcotics habit."

Gulotta said the FBI has seen former robbers robbing again soon after finishing prison terms.

"Typically, what happens is they continue to rob until they are caught."

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