Wednesday, July 12, 2000

“Average Joe” robber might be man in custody

Officer stopped suspect after Lexington heist

By Jane Prendergast
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        A man police think is the suspected serial bank robber known as Average Joe was behind bars in Lexington on Tuesday, arrested after police say he pulled his 18th Tristate heist.

(AP file photo)
        The arrest went down as simply as many frustrated investigators predicted it might — a teller gave a good description of the getaway car, and an alert police officer spotted the car and pulled it over.

        Inside the rental car with stolen plates, Lexington officers found Daniel T. Schwarberg, 43. Mr. Schwarberg, formerly of Florence, faces charges of bank robbery and possession of a stolen license plate.

        Detectives and FBI agents were careful not to definitively say Mr. Schwarberg was Average Joe. More investigative work is needed before they can confirm that, said Lt. P.T. Richardson, supervisor of the Lexington Police Department's rob bery/homicide unit.

        But officials pointed out several things about Tuesday's noontime robbery that fit Average Joe's pattern:

        Mr. Schwarberg's looks are similar to the non-descript ones that prompted investigators to dub him “Average”; he used a computer-generated note to get the cash; and the hit took place about six weeks after Average Joe's last one May 29 in Clermont County.

        Lexington investigators would not say if he asked for a specific amount of money. That has been an Average Joe calling card too — he always asked for about $3,000. Investigators never knew what to make of that.

        Maybe he needed that much about every six weeks to pay his bills or to feed a drug or gambling habit, speculated FBI Special Agent Doug Warner, who first began tracking Average Joe after his first robbery in November 1998 in Crestview Hills. A frustrated Agent Warner, describing why it was so difficult to find the robber despite the many bank surveillance pictures of him, coined the Average Joe name.

        Repeatedly over the past 30 months, the agent said the same thing: We just need a break. An alert teller. Or a police officer who maybe sees something unusual.

        Both dovetailed at about noon Tuesday to result in Mr. Schwarberg's arrest. A teller described the metallic-colored sedan used as a getaway car by the man who robbed a Bank One branch in suburban Lexington shortly before noon. About a half hour later, a veteran officer sitting on Interstate 75 watching for speeders spotted a similar car and made the traffic stop just over the Fayette County line in Scott County.

        Officer David Flannery talked to the driver and fairly quickly decided the driver's story didn't add up, Lt. Richardson said. He wouldn't give other key details of the telling conversation.

        “That's the break,” the lieutenant said. “The two things that I've said all day long is this teller did one heck of a job and this police officer did one heck of a job.”

        Mr. Schwarberg also was charged with several traffic violations, including failing to wear his seat belt and failure to notify the state motor vehicle bureau that he had changed his address. He was expected to make his first court appearance this morning in Fayette District Court.

        Mr. Schwarberg once lived in an apartment on Tee Street in Florence. His name was still on the mailbox there Tuesday, but neighbors said he had not lived there for several years.



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