A former Greyhound bus driver, dubbed the “burly bandit” by the FBI, pleaded guilty in federal court Friday to robbing 11 banks in the Northeast.

Robert Ferguson, 47, of Lowell, Mass., wore disguises ranging from cowboy hats and fake mustaches to gray wigs, and used toy guns that appeared real. He terrified bank tellers and managers, threatening to kill them if they didn’t hand over cash.

U.S. Attorney Thomas Delahanty II said Ferguson was captured because observant citizens got involved after the robbery July 13 at the Bangor Savings Bank in Orono.

“I want to credit the concerned citizens from Bangor and Orono who provided critical information,” Delahanty said at a news conference to announce Ferguson’s guilty plea in U.S. District Court in Bangor.

The news conference in Portland was linked remotely to Bangor and federal offices in Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Vermont — other states where Ferguson committed robberies. He also robbed banks in New Hampshire and Buffalo, N.Y.

Court papers show that, three times, Ferguson drove his Greyhound bus to its destination and wasn’t scheduled to leave until the next day. During his down time, he would rob a bank, then discard his disguise nearby.

After getting away 10 times, Ferguson robbed the Bangor Savings Bank in Orono. A maintenance worker for the Orono Housing Authority told police that he saw a man leave the bank and get into a U-Haul truck just as police arrived.

Two workers at the Days Inn where Ferguson was staying recognized him from pictures broadcast after the robbery, police said. His bus was parked outside.

A U-Haul clerk who also works at the University of Maine in Orono told police he was reporting for work and saw the truck that had been rented to Ferguson parked near the bank. He said he noted the truck number.

Ferguson was arrested the next day.

Federal authorities are still calculating how to distribute the $25,000 reward that was offered for information leading to the robber’s arrest and conviction.

They say Ferguson stole a total of $107,000, and spent much of it at strip clubs.

Police recovered $11,000 that was taped behind an electrical panel in the bus.

A search of Ferguson’s home turned up items that he had purchased, including sports memorabilia and a $3,500 mattress.

Ferguson’s fiancee showed investigators Ferguson’s clothing, which matched that pictured in surveillance video. Agents also found hats and sunglasses that were used in the robberies.

In his car, which he had repainted with the proceeds from one robbery, they found a police scanner, a BB gun and license plates, which were used in the robberies.

Most of the money was gone. Prosecutors say Ferguson bought tickets to see Blue Man Group and the Charlie Daniels Band, and treated at an expensive steakhouse on Mother’s Day. And he would spend $2,000 to $3,000 a night at strip clubs.

“He was a very extravagant tipper,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Nancy Torresen, the prosecutor in the case.

No date has been set for Ferguson’s sentencing.

Judge John Woodcock said Ferguson faces as much as 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 for each of his six unarmed robberies. The maximum penalty for each of the armed robberies is 25 years in prison and a fine of $250,000, he said.

Woodcock also said Ferguson could be required to pay restitution to the banks.

 

The Bangor Daily News contributed to this report.

 

Staff Writer David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at: [email protected]