Police have made considerable headway in solving the unusually high number of bank and post office robberies in Harford County since late 2012.
Arrests have been made in connection with 11 of the 14 robberies and one attempted robbery, which targeted banks from Bel Air to Aberdeen to Street, as well as one of the county's smallest post offices, between November 2012 and Dec. 5, 2013.
By far the greatest concentration of the stickups, which averaged one a month, was in the greater Bel Air area.
The four unsolved cases remain under active investigation by either the Harford County Sheriff's Office or Maryland State Police.
The closure or expected closure of the 11 of 15 cases resulted from a pair of high-profile arrests of alleged serial robbers last September and October, following investigations that involved local, state and federal authorities.
Andrew Maberry was arrested Sept. 11, 2013 in connection with 10 robberies in five states, including two in Bel Air a couple of weeks apart last July. He turned himself in to the FBI in St. Louis after a nationwide alert was put out that included surveillance photographs from each of the robberies.
John Joseph Wilson was arrested a month later in connection with a string of robberies in Harford and Baltimore counties dating back to late 2010.
Maberry, 19, of O'Fallon, Ill., became known as the I-55 bandit because several of the robberies that police believed him to be involved in occurred in towns along that Interstate Highway in the Midwest.
Maberry has pleaded guilty to bank robbery and admitted to the robberies, including the two in Bel Air, at Harford Bank on June 5 and Wells Fargo Bank on July 19.
Maberry entered his plea on Dec. 20, 2013, according to an FBI news release, and is awaiting sentencing. He could get up to 20 years in prison and face a fine of as much as $250,000 in the federal case.
Bank, postal charges
Wilson, 54, of the 2900 block of Dunbrin Road in Dundalk, was arrested on Oct. 11 and is accused of robbing Madison Square Bank in the 2200 block of Belair Road in Fallston on Sept. 30, 2010 and again on Dec. 10, 2012; Sovereign Bank in the 1800 block of Emmorton Road in Bel Air on Dec. 17, 2012 and Feb. 4, 2013; and the Benson Post Office in the 100 block of Connolly Road on Dec. 12, 2012 and April 27 and Oct. 5, 2013, according to Harford County Sheriff's Office spokesman Edward Hopkins.
He has also been charged in connection with an attempted robbery at the Emmorton Road Sovereign Bank on April 27, 2013, Hopkins said.
Bel Air Police, meanwhile, have connected Wilson to a Sept. 6,2013 robbery of Liberty Bank in Harford Mall.
Maryland State Police say Wilson also is connected the Nov. 5, 2012 and Feb. 4, 2013 robberies of the BB&T Bank branch on Route 1 in Fallston.
"He [Wilson] basically went through [the list of robberies] and said, 'This one, this one, this one...,'" MSP Detective Sgt. Jim DeCourcey recalled about the investigation.
In the BB&T robberies, surveillance footage showed the robber in construction attire wearing a hat and hair with a ponytail, brazenly jumping the counter to steal cash at gunpoint from employees.
"If there were ever a danger to the community, this is it," Harford County Assistant State's Attorney Mark Meehan said during Wilson's bail hearing following his arrest.
Wilson is facing federal charges in the three Benson Post Office holdups. The third one may have been his undoing. While fleeing, the robber encountered a person who took down a license plate number from the suspect vehicle, as he fled after firing a shot.
Many reasons why
Hopkins said it is hard to determine why so many robberies happened in such a relatively short span.
"That's tough to answer in that we never truly know the motives of the suspect usually until after they've been arrested and interviewed," he said, explaining sometimes a crime can be tied to the economy, sometimes to a specific suspect's behavior and opportunity.
"Sometimes the suspect decides last minute that they are going to commit a robbery," Hopkins continued. "Some robberies are caused by addicts needing cash and therefore the bank is an opportunity for them."
"Very few suspects truly plan out their crimes," Hopkins added. "Most robberies really are opportunity driven. I know that isn't a solid answer, but it's tough to speculate on the why. Many times when we think we know why, an arrest is made and then we find the reason for the robbery was something totally different than we suspected."
With the likely case clearances from the arrests of Maberry and Wilson, a few of the past year's robberies remain open.
Perhaps most prominently, Sovereign Bank in the 2000 block of Rock Spring Road in Forest Hill was robbed at gunpoint by two people wearing masks and dressed in black clothing, according to surveillance footage.
Most recently, Madison Bank in the 500 block of Stepney Road in Aberdeen was robbed Dec. 5, 2013.
In that case, employees who were opening for business were confronted by two men armed with guns who demanded cash before fleeing on Stepney Road. The robbers are described as white men who wore all black clothing and covered their faces.
Hopkins said last week that both cases remain under investigation by the Sheriff's Office.
"With bank robberies, the detectives won't tip their hand or give up too much information for fear of tipping off any suspects," he explained via e-mail. "The most I would be able to say is that they are active investigations."
Nor did he know more about the robbery of a NBRS branch, in the 3000 block of Conowingo Road in Street, that remains unsolved from Dec. 13, 2012.
"Still no leads that I'm aware of," Hopkins said.
State Police have an open investigation on the BB&T bank robbery on Baldwin Mill Road at Upper Crossroads on July 31.
DeCourcey, of the state police, said investigators had a couple of leads that did not pan out and no arrests have been made.