Firms handed 'guard' the cash

The Baltimore Sun

On a December morning, a man in a Dunbar Armored uniform told employees at a Bank of America branch in Ellicott City that he had come for a routine pickup. An employee handed him two bags containing nearly $200,000, and he left.

What the bank workers didn't know was that the man didn't work for the security company.

Police say the cash was picked up by Robert Allen Flanagan, 38, a former Dunbar employee who kept his uniform after losing his job. The Pennsylvania man made the rounds last fall at several businesses, picking up hundreds of thousands of dollars along the way, authorities allege.

The recent thefts in Howard and Baltimore counties pale in comparison with the robbery of a Dunbar depot in Los Angles in 1997, where an employee masterminded a plot that netted $18.9 million. But police say the local crimes - involving the theft of more than $270,000, the bulk of it stolen after the first of Flanagan's two arrests - stand out for their audacity.

"This was an unusual case and certainly a brazen one," said Sherry Llewellyn, a spokeswoman for the Howard County Police Department. "While bank robberies occur from time to time in the county, this type of case is not something our detectives typically see."

Flanagan's trial in the Baltimore County incidents is scheduled for today in Towson. A trial in Howard County is set for June 17. In the two jurisdictions combined, Flanagan has been charged with two counts of theft of $500 or more, four counts of attempted theft of $500 or more and one count of theft under $500. If convicted on all charges, he could be sentenced to 90 years in prison and be fined $150,000.

Although the suspect had a handgun in some instances, he never used it to threaten employees, who often readily handed over the money because they recognized him.

"I don't hear about this very often," said Bill Toohey, a spokesman for the Baltimore County Police Department. "One of the things that makes [someone] a robber is he has to strike fear in his victims, and since he didn't threaten anybody, it's not a robbery."

Flanagan's wife is scheduled for a trial in June in York County, Pa., on charges of receiving stolen property. According to court records, Robin Gastley Flanagan bought a Chrysler Crossfire the day her husband allegedly took the cash from the Ellicott City bank.

According to court records, Robert Flanagan is a former Dunbar employee who was terminated. A call to the company's headquarters in Hunt Valley was not returned.

The crimes Flanagan is charged with took place on two days separated by almost two months. About 11 a.m. Oct. 15, the manager of Dunbar's Timonium branch took a call from the Build-a-Bear store in Towson Town Center. Employees said a Dunbar employee had arrived to pick up deposits, but they didn't turn over the money because he didn't have his Dunbar identification card.

A store employee described the man as "the ex-Baltimore City officer that used to come here." Flanagan worked as a Baltimore police officer from 1993 to 2005, Toohey said.

Not long after, a man approached an AT&T; Wireless phone kiosk in the mall and asked for a bank deposit and logbook. That employee there also noticed that he didn't have an ID card and refused to give him the money, about $800.

About 30 minutes after receiving the call from Build-A-Bear, the Dunbar manager got one from Valley View Farms in Cockeysville. An employee said a man tried to pick up deposits of more than $8,000. They wouldn't give him the money.

But about 11:45 a.m., the Dunbar manager got word that a man in a company uniform went into a Target store on York Road and left with more than $72,000 in deposits, including $55,000 cash.

Police then received a call about 12:30 p.m. from a Kohl's store in Ellicott City. A worker said a man had come to the customer service desk and asked for a deposit worth $21,000. Again, employees refused, this time because they saw no armored car in the parking lot. A woman told police that the orange tote bag that the man was holding made her suspicious.

Most of the day's events were caught on video surveillance, police said. The Dunbar Armored manager saw the footage and said the man resembled Flanagan, according to court records.

Baltimore County police arrested Flanagan the next day at his home. His bail was set at $50,000, which he posted.

In December, a man wearing a Dunbar uniform showed up at the Bank of America branch in Ellicott City. The pickup seemed normal until the bank employee who had turned over the money saw the man climb into a black Jeep Wrangler. He called Dunbar to verify that a pickup was supposed to happen that day.

Officers from York Area Regional Police Department arrested Flanagan at his Dallastown, Pa., home that day, and he was extradited to Howard County. Bail was set at $250,000, which Flanagan has not posted. Calls to his lawyer were not returned.

When police searched Robin Flanagan's purse the day of her husband's arrest, they found signs she had opened a savings account and deposited $10,000 cash, court records show. She also opened a checking account and deposited $177,000 cash, records show. Police found a receipt in the purse for a cashier's check for more than $16,000.

Robin Flanagan, 37, told police that her husband had given her the money in cash and that they had opened the accounts together at a York bank, according to court records. She said her husband told her the money was from a workers' compensation settlement for an accident he'd been involved in, court records show.

The woman knew nothing of her husband's alleged thefts, said her attorney, John Richard Oare.

"She is an injured and innocent spouse," Oare said.

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