By Brian Messenger
---- — Police believe the Merrimack Valley Bandit is expanding his territory after allegedly robbing a bank in York, Maine, on Saturday.
After striking five times in Methuen and Lawrence, in the last two weeks the suspect dubbed the Merrimack Valley Bandit by the FBI has been connected to bank robberies in Dracut, Groveland, Tewksbury, Westford, Chelmsford and Acton.
The incident in York, which occurred at Bangor Savings bank at 10:28 a.m., is the 14th robbery in which the bandit is considered a suspect, but the first outside Massachusetts.
“It doesn’t make it any easier for us,” said Lawrence police Chief John Romero, when asked about the impact of the bandit’s expanded geographical reach. “The frequency is what’s going to be his downfall. It’s just a matter of time before he’s apprehended.”
But while investigators now may have more ground to cover, Methuen police Chief Joseph Solomon said the Maine robbery indicates the bandit travelled a long distance most likely on major highways.
“It definitely makes the investigation more difficult,” said Solomon. “On the other hand, there’s extreme exposure.”
Police described the York suspect as a male in his early to mid 20s with olive or light brown skin and a slender build. The suspect wore a facemask, a dark colored or gray hooded sweatshirt, blue jeans and possibly a jacket.
The suspect showed a handgun to a bank employee and was carrying a plastic bag, police said.
Solomon said the bandit is not a suspect in a robbery that occurred Saturday afternoon at TD Bank in Hampton, N.H.
Of the bandit’s 14 alleged robberies, eight have taken place at TD Bank branches. The first robbery occurred Feb. 21 at TD Bank on Broadway in Methuen. The last area robbery in which he is a suspect occurred April 14 at Route 110 Convenience on East Street in Methuen.
Area residents with tips should call the FBI at 617-742-5533, Lawrence Police at 978-794-5900, or Methuen Police at 978-983-8677. The FBI, which is heading up the investigation, is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to his arrest.
Solomon said authorities are making progress with the investigation.
“We do have some good leads that are constantly being monitored and followed up on,” said Solomon.
Every time the bandit commits a robbery, Romero said he takes another series of risks.
“Sooner or later, something’s going to happen,” said Romero. “Given that he’s spreading out, it does make it more difficult. But everybody is aware of this. I think a lot of people are on the lookout for this guy.”