Police seek help finding serial bank robber

NEWAYGO COUNTY — Police are seeking help from the public in a series of Michigan bank robberies dating back to 2011.

According to a news release from the Newaygo County Sheriff’s Office, investigators have determined these four bank robberies are the work of a “serial robber.”

The suspect is described as a white male with medium to long brown hair, but he could be wearing a wig. He is approximately 20 to 30 years old, between 5 feet 9 inches to 6 feet 3 inches in height, with a slender build weighing approximately 180 to 200 pounds.

“We believe it is the same person at each robbery,” said Det. Sgt. Adam Mercer, of the Newaygo County Sheriff’s Office.

A $35,000 reward is available for information leading to the identification, arrest and conviction of those responsible for the bank robberies.

“The robber has targeted teller drawers as well as bank vaults,” Mercer, said.

When looking at a map of Michigan there is no significant pattern to the robberies, except that each robbery has occurred west of U.S. 131 and in a small community. Police also are urging banks, especially those in rural communities, to increase security measures and decrease the amount of readily available cash.

“The suspect seems to be targeting the smallest banks in extremely rural communities,” Mercer said.

Investigators believe the suspect will rob again, but they do not know when or where.

“We are not necessarily concerned with a particular area being targeted because we are dealing with a very large area from the previous crimes,” Mercer said. “We do want to catch who is doing this that is why we are asking for the public’s help.”

The first bank robbery occurred on June 3, 2011, in Lake County at the Lake Osceola State Bank, in Luther. The second robbery was on June 22, 2011, in Manistee County at the Lake Osceola State Bank in Wellston. The third robbery was on Nov. 16, 2011, in Emmett County at the Citizens National Bank in Pellston. The most recent robbery occurred on Sept. 3, 2013, in Newaygo County at the Independent Bank in Croton Township.

The FBI and Michigan State Police along with each sheriff’s office from the counties where the robberies occurred have formed a task force to bring an end to these robberies. Police have determined the robberies are linked because of evidence at the crime scene.

“We believe from the physical evidence and the method of operation from each of these crimes that they are the same suspect,” Mercer said.

Each robbery was at gunpoint and police said he has been labeled as the “respectful robber,” for his calm demeanor while committing these crimes. The serial robber is believed to have an accomplice and he uses a hand gun at each crime.

“Each of the four robberies are consistent with the weapon he used and we believe there is someone helping him,” Mercer said. “It is described as a black semi-auto handgun and he is probably right-handed.”

Investigators were not able to comment on the exact amount of money taken from each bank, but it is an “substantial amount,” Mercer said.

There have been several tips reported to the FBI and investigators since the robberies began, but police still have no significant leads.

“None of our tips have panned out,” Mercer said.

Anyone with information is encouraged to call the Newaygo County Sheriff’s Office at (231) 689-7303, the Emmet County Sheriff’s Office at (231) 347-2036, the FBI Traverse City Office at (231) 946-7201, or Newaygo County Silent Observer at (231) 652-1121.