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Worlds Greatest Bank Robber

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  • Worlds Greatest Bank Robber

    I got my STUFF magazine for this month and there was an article in there about the worlds greatest bank robber. After reading it for a few minutes his name finally came up and what do you know, he's Armenian. His name was Carl Gugasian.

    The mask comes off
    The Friday Night Bank Robber - responsible for nearly 50 heists - was
    legendary, almost superhuman. Then two boys playing in Radnor's woods
    found a clue....

    Carl Gugasian as a Villanova University senior in 1971.

    FBI agent Raymond Carr was at the Radnor Township police station on
    April 2, 2001, staring at a collection of items ranging from the
    alarming to the absurd.

    Books and maps, detailed notes on 160 banks from Connecticut to
    Virginia, five guns, about 500 rounds of ammunition, two ski masks,
    and eight Halloween masks.

    Carr and his friends and colleagues Radnor Detective Joseph
    Paolantonio and Pennsylvania State Trooper Thomas Gilhool had been at
    it for hours, examining the contents of a "bunker" found the day
    before in the woods across Iven Avenue from the Radnor police station.

    be it belonged to some kind of extremist group, someone suggested.
    And then, Carr recalled, it hit him.

    "I believe I know who this guy is," the agent announced to his
    surprised colleagues. "This is the Friday Night Bank Robber."

    The Friday Night Bank Robber was legendary in FBI and law enforcement
    circles. If he was one person, he was without doubt the most prolific,
    successful bank robber in U.S. history: scores of heists, all on
    Fridays, going back three decades, netting him about $2 million.

    The robber worked alone, and witness identifications were impossible
    because he was always fully covered: heavy clothing, cap and gloves,
    and a full-head Halloween mask, usually of an elderly person or the
    Freddy Krueger character from the Nightmare on Elm Street films.

    Just as frightening as his gun and the loud voice was the robber's
    seemingly superhuman athleticism. From a standstill, the robber would
    often vault over the counter and land near a terrified teller to empty
    the cash drawers.

    Just three months earlier, Carr, the FBI's regional liaison with its
    profiler unit in Quantico, Va., had been asked by FBI agents in
    Albany, N.Y. and Scranton to create a psychological portrait of this
    phantom.

    Carr was looking at many of the elements that would support that
    profile.

    What he did not have, Carr said, was a name.

    The Friday Night Bank Robber would turn out to be Carl Gugasian, an
    enigmatic, single 56-year-old with an Ivy League education, who paid
    his taxes with money he said came from casino gambling, drove two
    nondescript used vehicles, and lived in an ordinary suburban garden
    apartment.

    On Dec. 9, 2003, Gugasian was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Anita
    B. Brody to a 171/2-year term in federal prison.

    It was a sentence carefully crafted by prosecutors and Gugasian's
    attorneys to acknowledge his value to the FBI and to offer him some
    hope of avoiding what otherwise would have been life behind bars.

    The story of Gugasian's arrest and prosecution was, the judge noted,
    the culmination of "excellent police work" by the FBI and state and
    local police. It was also the result of an unusual friendship that
    developed between the hunter and the hunted.

    The week after he was sentenced, Gugasian began his new career as an
    incarcerated "consultant" to the FBI, a role Carr helped him get. He
    was interviewed on videotape for a training film on bank-robbing
    techniques that the bureau will distribute nationally to police
    academies and law-enforcement schools.

    Gugasian has already helped the FBI's profiler unit in his own case
    and has led agents to 27 of his bunkers throughout Pennsylvania, where
    he hid clothing, rations, weapons and detailed bank surveillance
    notes. His guilty plea let the FBI close 50 unsolved bank robberies, a
    record that dwarfs those of such crime legends as Bonnie Parker and
    Clyde Barrow, John Dillinger, and even Willie Sutton.

    Gugasian would not agree to an interview for this article. His elderly
    mother, brothers and girlfriend - Gugasian has never married - are
    also maintaining their silence, said defense attorney Scott Magargee.

    But despite a sentence that for most middle-aged men might seem like a
    life term, those who know Gugasian have few doubts that he will see
    freedom again.

    "I've never encountered anything like this before in my career," Carr
    said of Gugasian's expertise. "It's overwhelming."

    Health-food fanatic, devotee of yoga and meditation, third-degree
    black belt in karate, Gugasian is a lean, muscular 5-foot-9 in superb
    condition.

    He has a mind to match: a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering
    from Villanova University and a masters in systems analysis from the
    University of Pennsylvania, plus doctoral work in statistics and
    probability at Penn State.

    What remains a mystery is why a man who would seem likely to succeed
    at anything decided to succeed at bank robbery.

    Ray Carr has been an FBI agent for 16 years, first in Buffalo and
    since 1991 in Philadelphia, where he ultimately was assigned to bank
    robbery.

    Much of Carr's time is spent handling requests from FBI and law
    enforcement agencies for help from the bureau's National Center for
    the Analysis of Violent Crime - the profilers.

    Though the public most often associates the unit with hunts for serial
    killers, Carr, 46, said there are serial perpetrators in every type of
    criminal conduct.

    The unit, for example, assisted Philadelphia police by developing a
    profile of the Center City rapist, who was arrested in 2002 and
    admitted attacking 14 women in Pennsylvania and Colorado, including
    the fatal 1998 assault on Shannon Schieber, 23, a student at the
    University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School.

    So it was not unusual when, in January 2001, Carr got a call from the
    FBI offices in Albany and Scranton asking for a profile and analysis
    of a man they believed was responsible for about 15 bank robberies in
    New York and northeastern Pennsylvania since 1989.

    The agents in Albany and Scranton sent Carr the voluminous case files
    on the man dubbed the Friday Night Bank Robber, and he began running
    the data through the bureau's Rapid Start computer program, which
    creates a searchable database of case information, tips and clues.

    "I had a pretty good feel for who this guy was," Carr said.

    The robber would be in his 40s, be even his 50s, Carr determined.
    He "would probably be a loner and would be relatively mysterious: He
    didn't communicate a whole lot about his personal life."

    Given the robber's athletic flair during the heists, Carr believed he
    had military training and would be a physical-fitness fanatic.

    At 8:30 a.m. on April 2, 2001, Carr was in his office in the FBI's
    satellite unit in Newtown Square, trying to organize his findings into
    a "workable format," when Radnor Detective Joe Paolantonio called.

    "What are you doing today?" Paolantonio asked. "I came across
    something last night I think is a little bit beyond us. Can you come
    up and give us a hand?"

    Paolantonio had Carr's attention: "What is it?"

    "We found some guns and stuff in, like, a bunker."

    The two teens had been building a fort in the woods late in the
    afternoon of April 1, 2001, when they spotted something inside a
    concrete drainage pipe.

    Inside were several sections of capped PVC piping. Curious, they
    opened a pipe and took out documents that referred to several bank
    robberies, as well as instructions on how to clean a Beretta firearm.

    The teens took their find to the Radnor police, and when an officer
    returned to the scene, he stumbled on a "bunker" - three feet deep and
    four feet across - filled with capped PVC pipes and waterproof
    containers.

    In his 13 years as a detective, investigating burglaries and suburban
    crime, Paolantonio, 45, said he had never seen anything quite like
    this. The bunker was not just a hole in the ground. It was carefully
    excavated and lined with brick and concrete block. The contents were
    organized with military precision. And the drainage pipe, placed into
    the berm of the abandoned right-of-way for the old P&W trolley line,
    seemed to be a dummy; it did not connect with anything.

    "It was very clear that somebody had taken a lot of time and effort to
    do this," Paolantonio recalled.

    This was what Paolantonio had called Carr to see.

    Among the contents was a paper describing the Patriot National Bank
    and location and the notation "F-7."

    To Carr, the note had just one meaning: The bank closed on Fridays at
    7 p.m.

    There was more, including detailed surveillance notes on 10 to 20
    banks in New York, Connecticut and central and eastern Pennsylvania,
    among references to 160 banks. There were eight flesh-colored
    Halloween masks and several pullover ski masks. Some masks had been
    altered to improve the fit and vision, and some were hand-painted to
    be more intimidating.

    The bunker also contained formidable firepower: five large-caliber
    guns, all with their primary and hidden serial numbers obliterated.

    There were electrical-engineering and statistical materials, a "Camp
    Hill Handbook," and - most intriguing to Carr - detailed topographical
    and directional maps for Pennsylvania state forests near Jim Thorpe.

    Did the maps show the sites of other bunkers? Carr wondered.

    The Radnor discovery resulted in the creation of a 30-member task
    force, including FBI agents from states in which the listed banks were
    located, Pennsylvania and New York state police, and a veteran federal
    prosecutor from Philadelphia, Linwood C. "L.C." Wright Jr.

    Carr's hunch proved correct. The maps from Radnor led to seven more
    bunkers - some large enough to walk into - carved out of the
    wilderness in northeastern Pennsylvania.

    There were more bank-related documents, newspaper clippings about bank
    robberies, surveillance notes, clothing, disguises and survival
    rations.

    One bunker contained 18 weapons, all but one with the serial numbers
    removed. That gun, so unaccountably neglected, proved to be a clue as
    enigmatic as it was important: The pistol had been reported stolen in
    the 1970s from a shop near the Army's Fort Bragg, in North Carolina.

    To pin a name to the profile of the Friday Night Bank Robber, Carr and
    the task force started following leads from the bunkers. One of those
    leads, which also fit the profile, was a paper mentioning the Dillman
    Karate Studio.

    Dillman Karate turned out to refer to George Dillman, the
    Reading-based founder and owner of an international chain of 85 karate
    schools, who had developed his own method of Ryukyu Kempo
    pressure-point fighting and grappling.

    Among five local studios was one "dojo" in Drexel Hill, near Radnor.
    Carr said he described the robber's profile to the studio's owner, who
    named several students fitting the description.

    One was Carl Gugasian.

    Carr realized that Gugasian was the right age and height. In addition,
    his apartment on Iven Avenue was directly across the street from the
    woods in Radnor where the first bunker was found.

    As agents checked Gugasian's background, more pieces came together. He
    had received weapons, survival and self-defense training with Army
    special forces and was stationed at Fort Bragg in the mid-1970s - a
    link to the stolen gun in the bunker in northeastern Pennsylvania.
    take control of your mind before it takes control over you

  • #2
    continued ..........
    Gugasian, who grew up in Delaware County and graduated from Haverford
    High, also had a juvenile criminal record and had spent time in the
    1960s in the state's Camp Hill facility for juveniles near Harrisburg
    - which linked him to a handbook in the Radnor bunker.

    Finally, there were the fingerprints, 54 prints lifted from one
    bunker, which the FBI matched to Gugasian's file prints.

    But when FBI and police went to Gugasian's apartment, the landlord
    said he had moved shortly after April 1, the day of the two teens'
    discovery.

    "We knew it: CIA, right?" the landlord said triumphantly.

    "No, he's not CIA," Carr replied. "What made you say that?"

    "Then he's got to be in the witness protection program," the landlord
    countered.

    No, Carr said. "Well," said the landlord, "he's really weird."

    Gugasian, the landlord explained, was a loner who would go running in
    street clothes and with a full backpack.

    Carr left the Radnor apartment sure of his theory. "I know that it's
    him," he thought.

    Agents found Gugasian's new apartment in Plymouth Meeting. They began
    watching him and planning the arrest.

    And then, on Sept. 11, 2001, al-Qaeda terrorists commandeered four
    airliners and crashed them in New York City, Virginia and
    Pennsylvania. Throughout the Northeast, FBI agents such as Carr were
    sent to the crash sites. Vacations were canceled, and most agents were
    away from home, working up to 18 hours, seven days a week.

    Carl Gugasian and the Friday Night Bank Robber receded into the deep
    background, and Carr and the task force did not return to the case
    until January 2002.

    Worrying that the statute of limitations might expire on some of the
    robberies, Carr said, the task force decided to arrest Gugasian in
    March. But on Jan. 28, Carr said, he got a call from the FBI's Fort
    Washington office. A bank had been robbed the previous Friday night,
    and it seemed like Gugasian.

    Carr said the Friday Night Bank Robber hit only between October and
    April, when gloves and heavy clothing would not seem unusual, and "I
    had the feeling he would hit again."

    The next Monday, Carr got a call from the FBI in Harrisburg: "We had a
    bank robbery up here, and we believe it's Gugasian."

    The task force convened again and decided to arrest Gugasian as soon
    as possible, "because he hurt somebody." Twice, the Friday Night
    Bank Robber had shot and wounded people, in 1992 and 1994.

    Because of the numerous guns recovered from the bunkers and Gugasian's
    special-forces and martial-arts training, a SWAT team was assembled
    and tailed Gugasian on the morning of Thursday, Feb. 7, 2002, as he
    left his apartment and drove to Center City.

    Gugasian parked in front of the Philadelphia Free Library off Logan
    Circle. The car was surrounded before Gugasian could even crack the
    car door.

    Only later, Carr said, did he learn that Gugasian researched robberies
    at the Free Library, where he photocopied the detailed topographic
    maps he used to plan surveillance and escape routes.

    Gugasian was stunned by the sudden "takedown," Carr's team reported.
    But true to Gugasian's special-forces training, he adapted.

    "He was not cooperative; he was somewhat combative," Carr remembered.

    So Carr and his associates began working closely with prosecutor
    Wright to prepare the case for indictment and trial.

    The evidence collected from Gugasian's home and eight bunkers was
    overwhelming, and Wright decided to bring in a "second chair"
    prosecutor.

    Wright made use of a Justice Department staff "loan" program and
    tapped a 12-year veteran of Justice's antitrust division in
    Philadelphia.

    Bradford L. Geyer had already been helping prosecute gun and drug
    cases in the "Project Safe Neighborhoods" program. But now he found
    himself out in "the case of a lifetime."

    Gugasian continued to give up nothing. His financial affidavit filed
    in federal court said he was a self-employed statistical consultant
    who earned about $7,000 a month. His assets included a $2,000 car, a
    $1,000 van, and two bank accounts totaling $500,000. His tax returns
    listed his source of income as gambling.

    As 2002 ran out, Wright said, "we fully expected him to go to trial."

    But on Feb. 10, 2003, with a panel of prospective jurors ready,
    Gugasian went before Judge Brody and pleaded guilty.

    Carr credits Gugasian's family - two brothers; his 79-year-old
    Armenian-born mother, Sanassan Gugasian; and his girlfriend, Carol
    Miller, whom he met in a ballroom-dancing class - with changing his
    mind. None of them had known about Gugasian's secret life. Yet his
    mother, Miller, and brother George were present at sentencing to
    provide emotional support.

    The man who had terrorized victims for 29 years seemed to shrink when
    faced with their condemnation.

    "I hope you enjoy the next 17 years in prison," Dawn Bressler, manager
    of a PNC Bank branch in Lima, Delaware County, told Gugasian. "I hope
    you have nightmares just like I do."

    Kathleen Mohan, who was a teller at the PNC bank when Gugasian robbed
    it of $26,004 on Jan. 24, 1997, recalled his grotesque mask and his
    frightening voice as he waved a gun and screamed at her.

    "The fear I now live with is something I'll never get rid of," she
    said.

    Gugasian, dressed in his olive-green prison jumpsuit, had written the
    judge a letter of apology that he planned to read aloud as part of his
    atonement. But after listening to the victims' emotional testimony,
    Gugasian appeared overcome with emotion.

    "I don't think I could say anything right now," he told the judge.

    The man who once said he considered bank robbery a "victimless crime"
    had written to the judge acknowledging his crime and the terror he had
    brought his victims. He hoped his "words and prayers can give some
    comfort that the nightmare that they [his victims] might have been
    living is over."

    After the sentencing, Carr consoled the victims and then walked over
    to Gugasian, smiled, and clapped him on the shoulder. The Friday Night
    Bank Robber smiled weakly.

    Defense attorney Magargee told Brody at the hearing that Carr
    "deserves the court's praise" for the turnabout because he "treated
    Mr. Gugasian throughout this with respect and dignity. He did things
    here that are not typical of the adversarial relationship that we have
    with law enforcement many times."

    In fact, the loner and professional criminal, who had spent days in
    the woods in camouflage clothing surveilling banks and making detailed
    notes, had found a friend and confidant in the agent who arrested him.

    Geyer said Carr has "amazing compassion and rapport" with crime
    victims - and the criminals - he interrogates: "The guilty plea - I
    think Carl Gugasian could not get over that hurdle but for the respect
    he got from Ray Carr."

    Carr acknowledged the bond that had developed between him and
    Gugasian. Part of that bond, Carr added, has come in helping Gugasian
    explore what made him become a bank robber. That exploration
    continues.

    "He's a very sincere person," Carr said. "He's really not a bad guy
    for a serial bank robber. Dillinger, Bonnie and Clyde - they were
    ruthless people."

    "We talked about the good and the bad, and that this [the work with
    the FBI] is part of the good," Carr said. "He feels good because he's
    helping people."

    Like most serial criminals, Gugasian was "happy to get caught," Carr
    said. "He was getting tired, and he was taking greater risks."

    Carl Gugasian remains a loner, but Carr believes he knows he is not
    alone.

    "Since he's come in, we talk about once a month," Carr said. "And I
    told him I'd always be there for him."
    take control of your mind before it takes control over you

    Comment


    • #3
      They should make a movie about him just as they did with Frank Abagnale, Jr. with CATCH ME IF YOU CAN about checks and fraud. Now I'm probably going to get the usual answer. "Why would you want an Armenian man who was a criminal to be known, it takes our name down"
      take control of your mind before it takes control over you

      Comment


      • #4
        wow that man was badass!!

        haha I love it
        Vote For Pedro!!

        Comment


        • #5
          Wow!

          This reminds me of a similar story out of the movie "Catch Me If you Can"

          That was pretty freakin incredible.

          Comment


          • #6
            Maybe you didn't read the other posts Genuine
            take control of your mind before it takes control over you

            Comment


            • #7
              You beat me to it, I wanted to post this tonight. The guy was a bank robbing genius.
              We all carry reminders of our past, some are more visible than others. Some are so visible that everyone reads what they believe we've become. It's sometimes hard to dissuade others from the story they have written for us.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Emil
                You beat me to it, I wanted to post this tonight. The guy was a bank robbing genius.
                Did you find out about him from STUFF magazine this month or some other source?
                take control of your mind before it takes control over you

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by omniscient
                  Did you find out about him from STUFF magazine this month or some other source?


                  I read about him in this months STUFF magazine.
                  We all carry reminders of our past, some are more visible than others. Some are so visible that everyone reads what they believe we've become. It's sometimes hard to dissuade others from the story they have written for us.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Oh man, I live near where this happened and stuff and tracked down the story. We found the apartment building he lived in and explored the park across from it where he hid one of his bunkers. Couldn't find any sign of it but it was a cool thing to do, and pretty scary even though he was in jail at that point! Also I go to the school he went to as well.

                    Comment

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