A Bethlehem Township man arrested for a bank robbery in Mount Pocono Thursday is now the prime suspect in six other bank robberies including on April 3, according to court papers.
“I’m the silent bandit,” Fawzi K. Atra told a detective from the Pocono Mountain Regional Police Department shortly after being taken into custody on suspicion of robbing the ESSA Bank inside a Weis Market, according to a federal court affidavit filed by an FBI agent.
Atra, 42, of 2011 14th St., in Bethlehem Township, is at this point charged only in the robbery committed Thursday in Mount Pocono, though the federal affidavit says Atra claimed responsibility for six other bank heists this month – all of the robberies committed by the man the FBI had started calling “The Silent Bandit.”
In all of those robberies, the suspect reportedly uttered a total of just one word: “No,” after a teller offered him candy before she realized that she was facing a robber.
According to the affidavit, Atra told a state police trooper that he started robbing banks because the economy is terrible and he lost his job.
Atra’s alleged method of robbing the Mount Pocono bank matched very closely the method that had been described by police reporting the West Bethlehem bank robbery, according to the affidavit.
On Thursday, Atra allegedly handed an ESSA bank teller a note saying: “We just want the money there’s 2 other guys in the store with guns if I don’t leave and text them in 5 minutes they will start shooting.”
The teller handed Atra $1,354, according to the affidavit.
Soon after, a state trooper stopped Atra’s car based on a description of the vehicle and Atra surrendered during the stop, spontaneously admitting to the bank robbery and taking responsibility for six more, the court papers say.
Atra also told the trooper that he had a pellet gun inside the car, but did not use it during the robbery, the court record says.