A Chelsea man dubbed the “Spelling Bee Bandit” is facing federal charges that he robbed several Greater Boston banks by passing poorly spelled notes — and a tip from his mother helped investigators crack the case, court records show.
Jason S. Englen, 34, was arrested Monday and charged with robbing banks in Arlington, Burlington, Peabody, and Reading between Oct. 31 and Nov. 13, according to legal filings and the US attorney’s Boston office.
In each robbery, Englen allegedly approached a teller and passed a note that declared “ROBERY” or “ROBERT” and demanded cash, prosecutors said. He made off with $965 in the Arlington robbery, $880 in Reading, $2,121 in Burlington, and $2,380 in Peabody, prosecutors allege.
Englen’s public defender could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
According to an affidavit from FBI Special Agent Brendan C. Fogerty, Englen was being held at the Nashua Street Jail in Boston on an unrelated probation violation and had a recorded phone call with his mother, Theresa, on Nov. 18.
The jail monitors all inmate calls, except conversations with their lawyers.
During the call, Theresa Englen told her son she had seen an FBI bulletin about the robberies and knew he was the suspect, Fogerty wrote.
Jason Englen declined to discuss the matter with her, but an investigator at the jail alerted authorities, according to the affidavit.
On Nov. 23, Theresa Englen called an FBI task force officer, Robert DiSalvatore, and said her son was the person depicted in surveillance photos from the Reading robbery, Fogerty wrote.
Six days later, Fogerty and DiSalvatore interviewed Theresa and her husband, Joseph Englen, at their Chelsea home. When shown an image of her son wearing a hat during one of the robberies, Theresa Englen said “So that’s what happened to my Patriots hat,” investigators wrote.
Englen’s parents also told investigators he “has a serious drug habit, most likely heroin, and that they were aware that he had robbed banks in the past,” Fogerty wrote. “They said that [Englen] had recently been released from prison, was staying clean, and was doing odd jobs and work around their house.”
On Nov. 30, FBI agents interviewed Englen’s girlfriend, who said they had stayed in a Danvers motel on Nov. 12. The next day, he texted her to say “he had money to give her,” Fogerty wrote.
Englen made an initial appearance in federal court in Boston Monday on four bank robbery counts. He did not enter a plea and was ordered held pending further proceedings. An arraignment date was not set. If convicted, Englen could face up to 20 years in prison, prosecutors said.