April 24, 2013

'The Merrimack Bandit' charged in federal court

The man is linked to many Massachusetts bank robberies and to one Saturday in York, Maine.

By David Hench dhench@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

A Massachusetts man known as "The Merrimack Bandit" has been charged with an armed bank robbery and linked to more than a dozen other bank robberies, including one Saturday at the Bangor Savings Bank in York.

York police say Rafael Beamud, 32, of Lowell, Mass., was identified through an effort involving police in both states and agents with the federal Drug Enforcement Administration.

Beamud appeared in federal court in Massachusetts on Wednesday. The robbery cited in the court papers occurred on Feb. 21 in Methuen, Mass.

FBI Agent Lawrence Travaglia said the robbery was similar to the other robberies that Beamud admitted to committing.

The suspect was nicknamed "The Merrimack Bandit" after police determined that many of the robberies in Massachusetts' Merrimack Valley had been committed by the same person.

In Methuen, police say, Beamud entered a bank wearing a T-shirt that had been fashioned into a partial mask and carrying a semi-automatic handgun. To intimidate the bank employees, he pulled the gun's slide back to chamber a round, but instead it ejected a bullet.

After picking up the bullet, police say, he threw plastic shopping bags on the counter with a gloved hand, told the teller to fill them and said that if the teller pushed the alarm, he would shoot.

He also said: "Make sure there's no dye pack," according to a court affidavit.

An audit showed that $4,162 was taken from the bank. The robber fled but left behind one of the plastic bags, which police processed for fingerprints.

Surveillance pictures from the robbery were circulated, along with pictures from other robberies in the area.

Special Agent Todd Prough of the DEA recognized Beamud from the pictures, the affidavit says, and fingerprints taken from the bag matched his.

Beamud was arrested Tuesday in Salem, N.H., after a traffic stop. He had a roll of $1,500 in cash, some of which had traces of red ink on it, the affidavit says.

Police say that in an interview Tuesday, Beamud admitted to robbing the bank in Methuen, as well as banks in Lawrence, Dracut, Chelmsford, Acton, Groveland and other communities. He also said he had oxycodone pills he took in a pharmacy robbery in New Hampshire.

The affidavit did not specifically mention the robbery in York, but did note that within a two-month span beginning in February, there were 14 bank robberies in the Merrimack Valley and York County, Maine.

At the Bangor Savings Bank on Moulton Lane in York, Beamud walked up to a teller, showed a gun, handed the teller a white plastic bag and told her to put all of the money in it, said York police Capt. Kevin LeConte.

Within a few seconds, she handed back the bag, and he turned and left.

That was similar to the dozen other bank robberies Beamud that is accused of committing, LeConte said.

"That's what he does. He made it clear he only allows so much time in the bank and then he's gone," LeConte said, summarizing information learned from interviews with Beamud.

LeConte said that after the robbery in York, police compared surveillance pictures with an artist's sketch from an earlier robbery. The two matched, he said.

Police from several agencies interviewed Beamud on Tuesday, leading to Wednesday's announcement.

David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

dhench@pressherald.com

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