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Officers catch bank robber in the act Authorities say latest was N.Y. man's 91st caper


NEW YORK -- The city's most wanted bank robber was caught red-handed yesterday by two uniformed cops who walked into a midtown bank as the bandit was trying to pull off his 91st heist.

Police say Chet Wilkinson, 37, was the "Subway Bank Robber" -- so named because of his preferred means of escape. The bandit netted an estimated $200,000 in a spree of robberies that dated back to December 1991.

"We're most definitely relieved that we got this guy," said Lt. Joseph Pollini, of the Police Department's Major Case Squad. "He was a one-man crime wave."

Mr. Wilkinson was caught by Officers Charles Curcio and Daniel D'Ottavio of the Manhattan Traffic Division after they walked into the Emigrant Savings Bank at Seventh Avenue and 31st Street around 3 p.m. and noticed a teller motioning to them.

"We walked in in the middle of it and it kind of took us by surprise," Officer Ottavio said after the arrest. "The teller was making signs that they were being held up and that he had a note."

When Mr. Wilkinson spotted the officers he tried to flee, but was apprehended at a side entrance to the bank. The note he used in the stickup try -- which said "I have a gun. Give me all your money or someone will get hurt" -- fell out of a folded newspaper that he was carrying, police said. Mr. Wilkinson was not armed, and police said he never brandished a weapon in any of the holdups.

In about two dozen of the banks, the teller refused his demand for cash and told him to leave the bank. He would strike at several locations on his most prolific days, police said, and usually targeted banks in Manhattan and the Bronx near subway stops.

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