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.
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 13 other bank robberies and one convenience store robbery, 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.
“This was truly a cooperative effort of everyone sharing information and working together,” Solomon said. “It’s something we want to see more of in law enforcement.”
Throughout the investigation, authorities were able to collect “a significant amount of data, including many videos and photographs” of the bank robber, Solomon said.
The task force circulated photographs of the robber, he said. A Drug Enforcement Administration agent familiar with Beamud allegedly recognized him as the suspected robber, Travaglia’s affidavit said.
Once the task force had a potential name for the robber, they were allegedly able to match the fingerprints left at the Methuen TD Bank heist with fingerprints they found for Beamud in a state database, Solomon said.
Salem, N.H., police detained Beamud just 15 minutes after the task force issued a warrant for his arrest, Solomon 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 during 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.
Beamud is being held pending further investigation.