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'I see cops=you die': Serial bank robber tracked down with note he left behind

CBS Denver logoCBS Denver 8/15/2022 Logan Smith

A man who robbed four Front Range banks while on probation for previous robberies was sentenced Wednesday to more than 21 years behind bars.

A federal court judge handed down a sentence of 262 months in federal prison to Jared Lincoln Fitzgerald, 46, along with five years of supervised probation upon his release.

Fitzgerald committed the Colorado crimes while he was on similar supervised probation following his release from the Wyoming state prison system less than two years prior. 

"Jared Lincoln Fitzgerald committed four takeover-style robberies, all while he was under supervision for previous bank robberies," FBI Denver Special Agent in Charge Michael Schneider stated in a press release. "Fitzgerald clearly knew the consequences of his actions and still chose to break the law and terrorize his victims. This lengthy sentence is appropriate for this defendant."

Jared Fitzgerald shown in a July 2021 booking photo. Denver Police Department © Provided by CBS Denver Jared Fitzgerald shown in a July 2021 booking photo. Denver Police Department

A federal investigator's criminal complaint described Fitzgerald as the suspect who robbed three metro area banks and a Pueblo credit union over the course of a year. He struck the same Denver bank, MidFirst Bank at 101 North Cook Street, three months apart in 2020. In fact, he dealt with the same two tellers in each MidFirst robbery. They are identified in the complaint only by their initials, J.M. and C.H.

The morning of July 24, 2020, a man dressed as a construction worker approached J.M. carrying a clipboard. He flipped the clipboard to show J.M. a note that was taped to it: "This is a robbery." 

Metro Denver Crime Stoppers © Provided by CBS Denver Metro Denver Crime Stoppers

The bank employees recalled the robber then saying, "There is a problem. The problem is you're being robbed." The robber lifted his shirt to show a handgun tucked into his waistband and ordered all the employees into the bank's vault.

The employees struggled to open the vault and feared being shot, as stated in the complaint, when the robber began yelling and counting down aloud. They gained access on their third try.

The robber put more than $124,000 in a backpack and left. 

Teller J.M. described a similarly dressed man who entered the bank 15 days earlier. That man, J.M. said, told employees he was there to work on the bank's water system and was escorted to the back of the bank. The system did not need repair, the worker did not perform any service, and J.M. regarded the visit suspiciously.

Investigators compared surveillance images from both dates, saw the robber wearing the same shirt, hat, shoes and mask, and assumed him to be the same person who made the earlier visit.

U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Colorado © Provided by CBS Denver U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Colorado

During the second MidFirst robbery in October, the robber approached J.M. and C.H. armed with a handgun and demanded to be taken to the vault. C.H., according to the complaint, asked the robber what would happen if she did not comply.

The robber pointed his gun at J.M. and replied, "I'll shoot this b*tch."

He forced the employees into the vault at gunpoint, told them there would be a shootout if police arrived, and made off with more than $223,000. 

U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Colorado © Provided by CBS Denver U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Colorado

Investigators received their big break in April 2021. A robber dressed as a construction worker entered the Power Credit Union on East Evans Avenue in Pueblo and requested to speak with the bank manager about a parking lot asphalt project. When manager asked to see the work order, the construction worker presented a note on a clipboard. The note proclaimed robber's intent, reading in part, "I see cops = you die."

U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Colorado © Provided by CBS Denver U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Colorado

The robber ordered three bank employees into the vault and had them open a safe. He left with more than $56,000. 

U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Colorado © Provided by CBS Denver U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Colorado

Afterward, investigators found his clipboard on top of the safe. The robber had left it behind. 

In addition to the robbery note, the clipboard contained other paperwork. Several names and phone numbers were listed, along with types or brands of alcohol. Investigators called the phone numbers on the list and were told by those who answered that they had left their names and numbers - along with a request to be contacted should specialty beverages become available - at a specific Colorado Springs liquor store.     

It was the same liquor store employing Fitzgerald during his probation. 

Federal investigators acquired writing samples from travel requests which Fitzgerald filed with his probation officer. 

U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Colorado © Provided by CBS Denver U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Colorado

One of those requests was for a trip to Florida. Fitzgerald's liquor store supervisor told investigators that Fitzgerald flew there to marry and honeymoon with a 19-year-old woman. The supervisor stated that Fitzgerald planned to move to Florida and may have already purchased a home there.

Finally, as investigators built their case, the Wells Fargo at 6400 East 44th Avenue in Wheat Ridge was robbed on July 20, 2021, by an armed man loudly presenting himself as a law enforcement officer who was angry about fraudulent checks. Armed with a gun, he ordered all employees into the vault and took more than $450,000.

"The Wells Fargo robber made a statement that he had committed bank robberies before," as stated in the complaint.

The FBI's Safe Streets Task Force executed a search warrant on Fitzgerald's Colorado Springs home, storage locker and vehicles six days later. They found clothing which matched that used in the robberies, including the reflective vests, hard hat and black-and-white Addidas shoes. They also found more than $370,000 in cash and a 9mm "ghost gun" with the serial number removed in the trunk of a 2017 Maserati Ghibli - one of three cars Fitzgerald owned. The cash was linked to the that taken during the most recent robbery.

Fitzgerald was taken into custody during a visit with his probation officer. 

Investigators also turned up proof that Fitzgerald had used rental cars during each robbery.

"Bank robberies are crimes of violence that traumatize the victims, and we are dedicated to seeking justice for those victims," U.S. Attorney Cole Finegan stated in his office's press release.  

A search of online criminal records shows Fitzgerald spent time in Missouri and Iowa state prisons before his stint in Wyoming's system. He also has criminal offenses listed in Arizona and Illinois.   

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