One of the men arrested after a Northwest Washington bank was held up in March is described by the FBI in court papers as a career bank robber who also took part in violent robberies in Maryland and Virginia by a gang authorities dubbed the “Black Hat Bandits.”
The 66-year-old suspect has been charged in federal court only with the March 13 robbery of a Wells Fargo bank branch on Connecticut Avenue. But an application for a search warrant unsealed in federal court links him to six bank holdups in Virginia and two in Maryland, all since Jan. 2.Authorities have identified the defendant as Thomas Anthony George, most recently of Southeast Washington. George is described in an FBI affidavit as a “career bank robber offender” who has been convicted of robbing banks in the area three times — in 1988, 1993 and 1999.George served about six years altogether in the first two cases and more than 12 years after he robbed a bank on Wisconsin Avenue NW in 1999, warning a teller that he had AIDS and would kill a customer if she did not comply. He was released from federal prison Nov. 14, 2013.Authorities have said they are seeking other suspects in the nine robberies, and George and one alleged accomplice were publicly named after their arrest in March. But the newly unsealed warrant application explicitly links particular suspects to the Black Hat Bandits for the first time.The FBI has been investigating the gang since January and has issued several public alerts with photographs and a reward that has climbed to $30,000. A spokesman for the FBI’s Washington field office declined Tuesday to comment on the case. George’s son declined to comment when reached last month.The warrant application says George “admitted to robbing the Wells Fargo Bank . . . and the other eight banks in Virginia and Maryland.”The FBI has said robberies attributed to the Black Hats grew increasingly aggressive, with robbers in masks, fake beards and black-brimmed or knit hats trying to mount countertops to reach vaults. In one case, authorities said a gunman threatened to kill a customer if the teller didn’t hand over more money.