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Lacking tips in robberies, FBI turns to billboards

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Federal investigators frustrated with a lack of leads on a man who is believed to have robbed seven banks in three states are turning to electronic billboards in search of tips.

A man the FBI calls the Fake Beard Bandit is suspected of robbing four banks in Oklahoma, one in Joplin and two in Johnson County, Kan.

His latest heist was Wednesday at a Bank Midwest in Olathe, Kan. — one day after the Kansas City FBI office sent out a news release seeking information about him.

On Friday, FBI offices in Oklahoma City and Kansas City said they would be putting the suspect’s pictures on electronic billboards in Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Okla., Kansas City, Mo., and Kansas City, Kan., Hannibal, Joplin, Springfield, Mo., and Topeka, Kan.

The billboard space is being provided for free by Lamar Advertising.

“We do this on certain cases, at times when we’re not getting a whole lot of information from the public,” said Clay Simmonds, a spokesman for the Oklahoma City FBI office. “We wanted to broaden the scope. With him robbing banks in three states, we figured it would be a good chance to broadcast his image so someone who doesn’t pay attention to the news might see it and say, ‘I know that fellow.’”

The suspect is a white man who is in his 20s or 30s, 5-feet-8 to 6 feet tall, 150 to 180 pounds, the FBI said.

Officials said the man initially goes into a bank without a disguise, other than sunglasses, and grabs a deposit slip or other bank paperwork. He then returns later wearing a fake beard and large-brim hat, pulls out a pistol, demands everyone get on the floor, and demands cash, the FBI said.

Despite images that clearly show the man’s face, investigators say they have been stymied in their efforts to track him down.

“That’s the potentially frustrating part for us as investigators try to figure it out,” Simmonds said. “We know someone out there knows the guy. Maybe they don’t know he robbed the banks.”

While the FBI won’t say how much money the suspect has gotten from individual banks, Simmonds said he has gotten away with several thousand dollars combined.

Up to $2,000 is being offered for information leading to his identification or arrest and conviction. Anyone with information on him is asked to call 1-800-CALL-FBI.

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