Billboards hoped to help catch ‘Fake Beard Bandit’ who struck Shawnee bank
The bearded bank robber who held up a Shawnee bank apparently struck again last week in Olathe.
The FBI — which dubbed the suspect the ‘Fake Beard Bandit’ — hopes plastering his photos on digital billboards will help put an end to his spree. The FBI announced Friday that it would launch the billboard campaign in the Kansas City area, as well as Topeka in Kansas, Tulsa and Oklahoma City in Oklahoma, and Hannibal and Joplin in Missouri.
The serial bank robber — linked to two heists in Kansas, four in Oklahoma and one in Missouri — wore a fake beard and a fisherman-style hat and displayed a handgun when he hit Bank of Blue Valley, 5520 Hedge Lane Terrace, shortly after 3:30 p.m. July 25.
About 1:15 p.m. Aug. 3, a person thought to be the same man entered Bank Midwest, 14735 W. 119th St. in Olathe, demanded cash and left with an undisclosed amount, according to the FBI.
The robbery was a “traumatic” experience for the Shawnee bank employees, said Mark Fortino, executive vice president and chief financial officer for Bank of Blue Valley.
Fortino said his employees responded according to their training and followed instructions. However, he said, there’s always a chance that such a robbery could end with employees or bystanders injured.
“It all happens very quickly — they’re in and out in probably less than 90 seconds,” Fortino said. “Our hope is always that our loss can be recovered and, frankly, that nobody gets hurt. The safety of anyone working in this industry is always our primary concern.”
According to a news release from Brian Truchon, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Kansas City Division, the suspect in each robbery fits the same physical description as the Shawnee robber — a white male in his 20s or 30s, 5-foot-8-inches to 6 feet tall, 150 to 180 pounds. He typically enters the banks wearing sunglasses and grabs a deposit slip or other paper, then returns later wearing a large-brim hat and fake beard. Brandishing a pistol, he demands cash, instructs everyone to lie on the floor then leaves the bank on foot.
The FBI has multiple surveillance photos of the suspect — with and without his disguise.
The other robberies happened July 13 in Joplin; June 29, June 10 and May 26 in Oklahoma City; and May 24 in Coweta, Okla. In the Oklahoma cases, the suspect reportedly drove away in a silver Volkswagen, possibly a Jetta, with Oklahoma plates.
A reward of up to $2,000 is available for information leading to an arrest in the case.
Anyone with information about any of the robberies is urged to call 1-800-CALL-FBI (225-5324).