Thursday, July 13, 2000

'Average Joe' robbery suspect has money woes

By Jane Prendergast
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        It turns out the man suspected of being serial bank robber Average Joe only looks average.

        He's actually a convicted thief with three ex-wives, hefty child support obliga tions, two kids, a rundown house and a girlfriend who hoped they'd be married.

        Not average, but also not the guy any of his friends or Comair co-workers ever expected could turn up responsible for 18 Tristate bank robberies.

        Daniel Thomas Schwarberg, 43, of Verona, remained behind bars Wednesday in Lexington on $100,000 cash bond. He pleaded not guilty to bank robbery and other charges at an afternoon arraignment in a Lexington district court, and was assigned a public defender.

Trail of robberies before Tuesday
        He was arrested leaving the city Tuesday after allegedly holding up a Bank One there. Authorities found money in the rented gold Mitsubishi Mirage, along with money wrappers labeled “Bank One.”

        FBI agents won't say for sure that Mr. Schwarberg is Average Joe — they're still trying to link him to the 17 other robberies that date back to February 1998.

        But Tuesday's robbery, with a computer-generated demand note and rented getaway car, was strikingly similar to the others.

Schwarberg was most recently living in this house on Ky. 16 in Verona.
(Steven M. Herppich photo)
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        And Lexington police acted as if they had something unusual going on, allowing the two traffic officers who stopped Mr. Schwarberg on Interstate 75 to spend all of Wednesday fielding media questions. A crew from America's Most Wanted arrived late in the afternoon.

        The officers, after stopping the car because it fit a teller's description that had been broadcast, became more suspicious when they approached.

        Unlike most drivers stopped for traffic violations, Mr. Schwarberg handed his license out the window and immediately offered an explanation for his whereabouts — he'd been looking for an apartment in Lexington, he said. The officers hadn't asked.

Popular at Comair
        Mr. Schwarberg lives in rural Gallatin County and is popular at Comair, where he supervises ramp workers, officials there said. But they said little more Wednesday about him, other than to confirm he works there and that employees are cooperating with the investigation.

        He wears contacts, investigators now know. So the big, nerdy glasses he allegedly wore in the robberies were part of his disguise. On Tuesday, he ditched the suit he was wearing in the bank, changing into a T-shirt and khaki shorts, police said.

        Mr. Schwarberg lived with a fellow Comair worker on Tee Street in Florence until recently. For the past few weeks or so, he lived with his girlfriend, Connie Ramus, in a small house barely off the road on Ky. 16 in Verona. A woman answering the phone at the house Wednesday afternoon said she couldn't talk.

        Neighbor Ohlen Davis heard about the arrest on the radio, but didn't know Mr. Schwarberg was the man he sometimes saw parking different cars in the front yard of the light blue house next door.

        “A bank robber?” Mr. Davis said, incredulous. “Out here? I can't believe it.”

        Investigators poring through Mr. Schwarberg's background after his arrest found the child-support wage garnishments, the former wives and a theft conviction. He paid $15,000 in restitution for a 1994 theft-by-deception conviction in Butler County, court documents show. He was found guilty of taking the money that belonged to Augusta Square Apartments in Fairfield, where he worked at the time.

        He was threatened with 18 months in prison if he didn't pay it. He finished paying about a year ago.

        Mr. Schwarberg's life started out a little more average. He lived with his parents on Lawrence Road in Green Township and went to Oak Hills High School. He marched with the band his sophomore, junior and senior years.

        His arrest will give classmates more to talk about when they meet next month for their 25th reunion at Western Hills Country Club. Like the FBI, reunion organizers couldn't track him down — they sent the invitation to his parents' house, fellow grad Chuck Eckert said.

        Mr. Schwarberg seemed pretty average to Edgewood Police Officer Terry Chinn, too. In December, Officer Chinn met Mr. Schwarberg when the man rear-ended a car on Dixie Highway.

        Mr. Schwarberg explained that he'd been Christmas shopping at Dillards in Crestview Hills, was on his way home and just didn't see the car in front of him.

        Unbeknownst to Officer Chinn, he was dealing with a possible bank robber — 14 Average Joe hits had taken place at that time. He cited Mr. Schwarberg for failing to prove he had insurance.

        The case was dismissed after Mr. Schwarberg proved it later with a fax to the court from Comair's administrative offices.

        “He acted just like any other driver,” Officer Chinn remembered. “He acted just like, well, an average Joe.”

Veteran cops sat, awaited robber

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