The FBI is offering a reward for information about a man police believe has robbed five banks — including three in Stark County — since July 2.
Almost like clockwork, a man has been visiting area grocery stores on a Friday afternoon and robbing the banks inside the stores.
Police say he has followed the same pattern for the past four Fridays, usually showing up between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. with a note for the bank teller.
Each time, he appears unshaven and is wearing a baseball cap. Each time, he makes the teller aware that he has a gun.
And three of the five times, he has targeted a Stark County bank.
“Who knows (why he’s targeted Stark County),” FBI Special Agent Vicki D. Anderson said. “Maybe he lives there; maybe he doesn’t. ... Is he hitting his own neighborhood? Or is he driving in? We don’t know, and that’s why we are asking for assistance.”
This week, the FBI announced that it is offering a reward for information that helps identify the robber, who began his spree July 2.
FBI agents describe the robber as an olive-skinned man, possibly Hispanic, Middle Eastern or a light-skinned African American, who frequently appears to have one or two days of facial hair growth. He is between 5 feet, 9 inches and 6 feet, 2 inches tall with a thin build.
Anderson said the man approaches the bank teller and says he wants to make a withdrawal.
“Then, he passes the note forward, so the note says everything,” she said. “He hasn’t been real verbal.”
She said he has either shown a weapon in his waistband or has indicated that he has one. No one has been injured during the robberies.IN-STORE BANKS
Stark County has several banks that operate within a grocery store, including the five U.S. Bank branches that marked their grand opening in Fishers Food stores across the county in March. U.S. Bank is considered the largest operator of in-store and on-site bank branches in the country, with 800 of its 3,300 branches located in stores, according to a spokeswoman.
On July 2, the robber, dressed in a button down plaid shirt and baseball hat, can be seen in photos taken from a surveillance video approaching a teller at the U.S. Bank branch inside Fishers on Cleveland Avenue NW with the note folded in his hands.
He approached the counter at 3:18 p.m., unfolded the paper and showed it to the teller. A minute later, he left the counter with a stack of bills, the photos show.
A U.S. Bank spokeswoman declined to comment on security matters. A message left for Frank Ranalli Jr., vice president of operations for Fishers Food, was not immediately returned Wednesday.
James Thurston, a spokesman for the Ohio Bankers League in Columbus, said the banking industry has a bigger arsenal of surveillance tools nowadays than it did 10 years ago.
Page 2 of 2 - He said they still have the traditional methods, such as alarm systems, security cameras and security cards as well as using dye packs, which are slipped in with the bundle of money and designed to explode and cover the robber and the money with permanent ink. Banks also can require all hats, hoodies and sunglasses be removed before a customer can enter a branch, Thurston said.
He said the requirement could be trickier to enforce for branches located inside grocery stores, but could be done through a contract between the bank and store owner.
Banks also can flag their money using a bill’s serial number or can embed electronic tracking chips, both of which Thurston said can be more effective when a robber has established a pattern.
The FBI asks anyone with information regarding the bank robberies to contact the Canton office of the FBI at 330-456-6200.
The FBI is offering a reward for information about a man police say has robbed five banks — including three locations in Stark County — over the past two months.
The robberies have occurred on:• July 2 at the U.S. Bank inside the Fishers Food store at 4403 Cleveland Ave. NW in Plain Township.
• July 20 at the U.S. Bank inside Giant Eagle on Graham Road in Cuyahoga Falls.
• July 27 at the Huntington Bank inside Giant Eagle at 4700 Belmont Ave. in Youngstown.
• Aug. 3 at the Huntington Bank inside Giant Eagle at Washington Square in North Canton.
• Aug. 10 at the Huntington Bank inside Giant Eagle at 608 Raff Road SW in Canton.
Anyone with information regarding the bank robberies should call the FBI Canton office at 330-456-6200, the Akron office at 330-535-6156, the Youngstown office at 330-965-2940 or the Cleveland office at 216-522-1400.
FBI BANK CRIME STATS
According to the FBI’s 2011 bank crime statistics:
• 5,014 bank robberies; 60 bank burglaries and 12 bank larcenies occurred nationwide;
• 242 bank robberies were reported in Ohio.
• Most (20 percent) bank crimes took place on a Friday, followed by Tuesday at 18 percent.
• Most (28 percent) bank crimes occurred between 9 and 11 a.m.
• 94 percent of bank crimes happened at a branch rather than a main office.
• 20 percent of the money taken was recovered.