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FBI says it has arrested ‘Merrimack Valley Bandit’

The FBI has arrested a ­Lowell man whom authorities believe to be the “Merrimack Valley Bandit,” a bank robber responsible for a string of armed heists that began in February, officials said.

Rafael Beamud Jr., 32, is facing federal charges after the FBI arrested him in Salem, N.H., around 4 p.m. Tuesday, FBI spokesman Greg Comcowich said. Beamud made his initial appearance at US District Court in Boston Wednesday, where the FBI filed a complaint accusing him of armed robbery.

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Beamud is only charged for the Feb. 21 robbery of the TD Bank branch on Broadway in Methuen, in which $4,162 was stolen, but he is a suspect in robberies of 13 other banks and one convenience store, according to an affidavit from FBI special agent Laurence Travaglia. “We had fingerprints from the robbery on Broadway,” Methuen Police Chief Joseph ­Solomon said. “On that one, we’re absolutely able to tie him in.”

Authorities say they believe the same person who robbed the TD Bank in Methuen also robbed the other 13 banks, due to physical similarities shown in surveillance video of the robberies and the use of a small, black semiautomatic handgun in each heist, Travaglia’s affidavit said.

Beamud admitted to authorities that he was the person shown robbing the Methuen bank in a surveillance photograph, Travaglia’s affidavit said. He also admitted to robbing banks in Lawrence, Dracut, Chelmsford, Acton, Groveland, and other communities, accord­ing to the affidavit.

At least 15 local, state, and federal agencies participated in a task force to apprehend the bandit, FBI spokeswoman Katherine Gulotta said.

Travaglia’s affidavit said a Salem, N.H., detective stopped Beamud in a routine traffic matter and detained him until FBI agents arrived. Beamud told authorities that he used the Kia SUV he was driving at the time of his arrest in most of the bank robberies and that it contained the gun used during the robberies, bullets, a mask, and oxycodone pills he stole from a pharmacy in New Hampshire, Travaglia’s affidavit said.

Todd Feathers can be reached at todd.feathers@globe.com. ­Follow him on Twitter at @ToddFeathers.
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