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FBI: Tip that helped nab serial bank robber came from Examiner reader

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Local,Crime,Emily Babay

A tip last year from a reader of The Washington Examiner led authorities to the man who recently pleaded guilty to a 16-month bank robbery spree.

 

Jerome Thomas, 64, could face decades behind bars for robbing 11 banks in the District, and trying to rob one other, between November 2009 and March 2011. He pleaded guilty to the crimes in federal court in Washington.

Authorities started targeting Thomas after the FBI received a tip from a newspaper reader who identified him as a possible suspect in the heists.

The tip came in sometime after the eighth bank robbery, which occurred in May 2010, FBI spokeswoman Lindsay Godwin said.

FBI officials said the reader recognized Thomas' photograph in The Examiner. The Examiner published surveillance photographs from the robberies in a May 25 article and a June 3 brief.

Thomas was dubbed the "Bespectacled Bandit" because he wore reading glasses while committing the robberies.

He is the 29th person apprehended as a result of being featured in The Examiner. Tips from readers have helped the U.S. Marshals Service track down 28 "Most Wanted" fugitives.

In each robbery, Thomas would hand the teller a note demanding money and implying he had a gun or pipe bomb, according to court records. But no weapon was ever displayed, and no injuries were reported.

The spree began with the Nov. 23, 2009, robbery of a Chevy Chase Bank on Capitol Hill and continued until Thomas was arrested the night he robbed a SunTrust Bank downtown on March 16.

That day, court documents say, FBI investigators reviewed surveillance photographs from the SunTrust robbery and thought the robber resembled Thomas. Two other people who know Thomas identified him as the robber in the photographs, the documents say.

Law enforcement officials observed Thomas at his Southeast D.C. home that night, and he was wearing the same clothing as in the surveillance footage. He was taken into custody and admitted to the string of bank robberies.

Thomas' largest haul came in a Jan. 18, 2011, robbery, when he made off with $3,700.

He has agreed to pay restitution of $21,101, the total he obtained in the heists, according to his plea agreement.

"This case proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that crime does not pay," said Ronald Machen, the U.S. attorney for the District. "In nearly a dozen bank robberies, this prolific bank robber netted just $22,000."

Thomas is scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 25 and could face up to 20 years in prison for each bank robbery count.

ebabay@washingtonexaminer.com

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