How cross-country a bank robber was caught
September 6, 2014
The man charged with robbing the West Glenwood Alpine Bank in June also is suspected of committing bank heists in Florida and Texas, federal court documents show.
He was undone by workers at a Rifle motel where he skipped out on a bill, another document says.
Jack Lee Wright, 52, of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, is awaiting trial in U.S. District Court in Denver on a one-count indictment stemming from the Glenwood Springs robbery on June 30. He was arrested in mid-July, when police in Thurmont, Maryland, were tipped that he was on his way there from Indiana to visit a friend. They reported finding $10,000 and a handgun when they searched his pickup truck.
The robbery in West Glenwood on June 30 was the city's first in more than two years.
A man wearing a blue T-shirt and blue and white checkered shorts walked into the bank, put a backpack on the counter, showed a black semiautomatic handgun and passed a note to the teller demanding money, according to an affidavit filed by Glenwood Springs police seeking a warrant for Wright's arrest. The only thing he said was "now," the affidavit says.
He left the bank with $18,958, nearly double the $10,000 first estimated.
Other than wearing a baseball cap, the robber made no attempt to disguise himself. Glenwood police released surveillance photos from the bank that appeared on postindependent.com on the evening of the robbery and appeared in the printed Post Independent on July 1.
The affidavit says Glenwood police got a call from the operators of a motel in Rifle at 9 a.m. July 1.
Workers there told police that a man fitting the robber's description — even wearing the same clothes — left the motel June 30 and was out of money. His credit card was declined when he sought to pay for three nights' lodging. He paid for two with cash and said he'd be back. He didn't return and couldn't be reached by phone on the afternoon of the robbery.
However, the affidavit says, the motel had a copy of his Florida driver's license and surveillance camera images of his truck, a 2007 Dodge Ram 1500. Color surveillance footage from the motel lobby showed a man wearing clothing exactly like the robber's. Using the photo from the man's driver's license, police created a photo lineup, and a bank employee picked out Wright as the robber.
While operators of the Rifle motel declined comment, Glenwood Springs Police Chief Terry Wilson, when the arrest was made in July, credited community tips with helping catch the robber.
"A considerable amount of information that was useful to the conclusion of this investigation was provided by citizens who read and viewed media accounts of the crime, virtually within hours," Wilson said at the time.
Police in Gainesville, Florida, did not get the tips needed to catch a robber in April, when a man strongly resembling the Glenwood Springs gunman was caught on surveillance cameras robbing a Wells Fargo Bank. As was the case in Glenwood two months later, the man wore a ball cap but otherwise made no effort to conceal his identity.
"The man made motions to the teller, implying he was carrying a handgun — although witnesses say a gun was never actually seen," a television news report said. A nearby elementary school was placed on lockdown for a short period because of the robbery.
Wright is not charged in that robbery. However, a document filed in U.S. District Court in Denver by Wright's public defender seeking more time to prepare for trial cites two other robberies.
"The government alleges that Mr. Wright was involved in two additional bank robberies in Gainesville, Florida, and San Antonio, Texas. These allegations likely will become a part of the present case, as evidence against Mr. Wright" either at trial or related to sentencing guidelines, Wright's public defenders wrote.
The U.S. attorney's office in Denver did not respond by deadline to queries about the time and institutions robbed, so it's unclear when the San Antonio robbery occurred.
Wright faces up to 25 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000, court documents say.