An ex-con captured by federal Marshals in Passaic after authorities said he robbed a South Jersey bank of $76,000 at gunpoint during Christmas week fit the profile, investigators said.
William Ray, 43, of East Orange, is, in fact, being eyed in at least one other bank holdup, as well, just weeks earlier and barely seven miles away.
It was shortly after 4:30 p.m. last Dec. 22 that a robber identified as Ray held employees at gunpoint at the Investors Bank on Route 70 in Cherry Hill. After trying and failing to lock them in the vault, he fled with the cash, authorities said.
It was a fairly substantial haul compared with the $4,200 or so that the FBI says bank robbers get on average.
A robber pointing a handgun made off with a similarly sizable grab -- $74,000 -- from the Liberty Bell Bank on West Camden Avenue in Moorestown on Nov 3.
The bandit pointed a handgun at a teller behind the counter, got another to come closer, then ordered both into the vault, where he had one stuff cash into a bag, authorities said at the time.
He then ordered them to lie on the floor and fled, they said.
It's becoming a rarer occurrence.
The number of bank robberies across the U.S. is the lowest it's been in 50 years, according to the FBI. The number peaked at 9,388 nationwide in 1991 but then began declining steadily, making the 1,500 reported bank robberies in 2020 the fewest since 1969.
The number inched back up to 1,724 last year. But spread out over 50 states, that’s not really considered a lot.
These days, most bank robbers are ex-cons hoping for an easy score. Half the time the robber pulls or pretends to have a gun. Some quietly pass notes, while fewer – like Ray, authorities said – burst in loaded for bear.
Roughly 60% of them are caught in under 18 months, often because they follow patterns.
Authorities had been searching for the Moorestown robber when the Investors Bank the next town over in Cherry Hill was hit on Dec. 22 – also a Thursday, the same as before – at around the same time of day.
The Camden County Prosecutor’s Office worked the case with help from local police and the FBI. They quickly identified Ray, who turned 43 this past Tuesday.
Armed with a warrant, they searched his East Orange apartment a little over a week ago, Camden County Prosecutor Grace C. MacAulay and Cherry Hill Police Chief Robert Kempf said in a joint release.
Then, this past Thursday, members of the U.S. Marshals Service New York/New Jersey Regional Fugitive Task Force nabbed Ray in Passaic, they said.
It was no surprise to any of them that Ray has a criminal history. It stretches back 25 years, spans multiple New Jersey counties and includes state prison time, criminal records show.
Ray has been charged with robbery out of Essex County, forgery out of Union County and theft out of Passaic County, among other offenses, according to the records.
He's now charged with robbery, aggravated assault and weapons offenses that include being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm.
Ray will remain in custody at the Camden County Correctional Facility unless federal authorities decide to take the case.
Given the use of a weapon, the amount taken and his record going in, they just might.
Either way, Ray is looking at a minimum of 10 years behind bars – and likely much more.
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