Monday, January 19, 2009

"Debonair Bandit" hangs up his fedora

You have to give James Howze credit in at least one department, the man has style. Howze is suspected of robbing at least four Chicagoland bank robberies, in which he wore his signature brown overcoat, brown fedora, black scarf and black leather gloves. The FBI dubbed Howze the Debonair Bandit for his dapper fashion sense "when compared to most bank robbery suspects." No ski mask for this guy!

The two most recent robberies happened within a week of Christmas. One robbery on Dec. 18, and the other on Dec 23, the same day that the FBI released his pictures to the media. In each case, the dashing Debonair Bandit would stroll up to the teller, put a note on the counter, announced a robbery, and implied he had a weapon and threatened to harm the teller if his demands weren't met. He used a black leather attache case (he even accessorized!) to carry the money out of the bank, and would disappear into the crowds outside the bank.

After The FBI press release, five people came forward to identify Howze. Thanks to the tipsters, the FBI was able to track him to Atlanta where he was arrested. This apparently isn't the first time Howze is in trouble with the law. In 2002, he was convicted of passing counterfeit checks. And, in 2003, he plead guilty to two counts of bank fraud for trying to pass forged checks worth about $700,000.

As right now, he is only being charged with the Dec 23 robbery, though he is suspected of the others. The lone robbery charge could get him up to twenty years in prison if he is convicted.

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