Police bag 'Bearded Bandit' bank-robbing suspect


SEEKONK — Federal, state and local law enforcement officials, including those from the East Providence Police Department, believe they have captured the notorious "Bearded Bandit" bank-robbing suspect, having done so Wednesday afternoon, Sept. 19, at the Motel 6 just across the Rhode Island line in neighboring Seekonk.

The suspect, whose name was not released by police and who has allegedly robbed eight banks in the area, was taken into custody. Police impounded two vehicles from the scene, a late-model green Jeep Cherokee and an older model red Dodge van.

According to EPPD Chief Joseph Tavares, a meeting of law enforcement entities early Wednesday morning brought forth further information on the vehicles the so-called "Bandit" may have used to make his escape, the latest coming the day prior, Sept. 18, after he allegedly robbed the Pawtucket Credit Union on Newport Avenue in East Providence.

"I don't want to comment too much right now. Obviously we have a lot going on," Chief Tavares said as the scene at Motel 6 cleared around 3 p.m. Wednesday. "This is Seekonk's jurisdiction. There were a lot of departments involved in this investigation. I'm not going to go into details at this point."

Police officials, working on the tip, went to the Motel 6, located next to the 99 Restaurant and across the street from the old Showcase Cinema complex, just before noon on Wednesday.

Once there, they showed a series of photos to the employees, including Kyle Amaral, a Providence resident and a Motel 6 house cleaner. Mr. Amaral immediately recognized one of the photos as being that of a long-term occupant of the motel.

"I saw a number of pictures of guys with beards and it kind of threw me off at first," Mr. Cabral said before being summoned away by motel management. "I thought it kind of looked like (him), but I didn't want to make that kind of accusation."

The suspect, according to Mr. Amaral, was clean-shaven, using a false beard to supposedly commit the crimes. A fake beard, in fact, is believed to be one of the pieces of evidence police found in the room the suspect shared with his presumed girlfriend and a three-year-old female child.

"It caught me off-guard," Mr. Amaral continued. "I never thought I would come into work today and see all the cops and FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigations) guys here. I was kind of in shock.

"They showed me the pictures and one of them kind of had the same face as (the alleged 'Bandit'), but he had a beard and it threw me off."

Mr. Amaral said the suspect seemed personable and polite. He, did, however, leave his room for several hours at a time, which caused the "Bandit's" girlfriend to fret often.

"I would usually talk to his girlfriend. I don't think she knew what he was doing," Mr. Amaral added. "She never seemed to know what he was up to. He would leave for three, four hours at a time and she would be worried. She didn't know where he was."

The "Bandit's" female companion was not arrested. She remained behind at Motel 6 with the child after police vacated the scene.

The "Bandit's" spree of heists, coincidentally, began on Feb. 23 in Seekonk at the Bank of America branch just seconds south of the Motel 6 location. More recently, he attempted to rob the Bank of America branch in Barrington, July 26, the TD Bank in Rumford, Aug. 25, the TD Bank in Barrington, Sept. 11, and the PCC branch also in Rumford, Sept. 18. The latter attempt took place at approximately 3:50 p.m. Tuesday afternoon.

Tuesday and Wednesday were extremely busy and hectic for EPPD detectives. Earlier on Sept. 18, they responded to a robbery at the Columbus Credit Union branch in Riverside.

In addition to their investigation into the "Bearded Bandit" series of robberies, EPPD Detectives Wednesday arrested Jennefer Gomes, 27, of 137 Oak Crest Drive, Riverside.

Ms. Gomes is considered to be the female suspect who entered the Columbus Credit Union at just after noon on Tuesday and claimed to have some sort of explosive device. She left the building with an unspecified amount of cash and was believed to have been driven away from the scene by a male suspect towards Barrington in a red Ford F150 pickup truck.

Police believe Ms. Gomes committed the crime with her three-year-old son in the vehicle. No other suspects have been arrested or charged as of mid-afternoon Wednesday.

At the moment, police said they did not believe the two robberies are connected.

Return to www.eastbayri.com for further breaking details on both cases.



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