By Brian Messenger
---- — Fingerprints on a plastic bag left behind at the TD Bank on Broadway in Methuen, led to the arrest of the man known as the Merrimack Valley Bandit, federal authorities say.
The suspect, Rafael Beamud Jr., 32, of Lowell, has also confessed to a string of area bank robberies, according to a complaint filed in U.S. District Court following his arrest last week in Salem, N.H.
During an interview with police, Beamud confirmed he was the suspect pictured in surveillance photos from a Feb. 21 robbery at TD Bank on Broadway in Methuen, according to the complaint.
Beamud went on to tell police that the maroon Kia SUV he was driving prior to his arrest was the same vehicle he used as a getaway car “for all but two other bank robberies including Lawrence, Dracut, Chelmsford, Acton, Groveland and others.”
In the complaint, FBI Special Agent Laurence Travaglia wrote that investigators identified Beamud as their suspect using a series of bank surveillance photos and three fingerprints on a plastic bag that was left behind at TD Bank on Broadway.
“Beamud gave bags to the bank employees who put money into the bags,” Travaglia wrote. “He believed he took the bags, apparently unaware that he had left a bag behind.”
Beamud’s arrest capped a two-month police investigation for the suspect the FBI dubbed the Merrimack Valley Bandit. At least 15 local police departments worked in conjunction with the FBI’s Bank Robbery Task Force in recent weeks.
Beamud was charged last week with armed bank robbery in connection to the Feb. 21 robbery in which he allegedly stole $4,162. But he is also a suspect in at least 13 other robberies in the Merrimack Valley area and York County, Maine.
“Once we had the fingerprint match, we knew it was the same guy (robbing) all those banks,” said Methuen police Chief Joseph Solomon.
Beamud is being held without bail and was transferred to Plymouth County Correctional Facility following his court appearance last week.
He was arrested April 23 after a routine traffic stop in Salem, N.H. Beamud later told investigators that inside the vehicle was a .380 handgun, bullets, a mask and other articles of clothing that he used during the robberies.
“He also stated that the car contained oxycodone pills which he obtained during a pharmacy robbery in New Hampshire,” wrote Travaglia.
Beamud is seen carrying a small, semi-automatic handgun in bank surveillance footage from the Feb. 21 robbery in Methuen.
“As he approached the teller counter, the subject attempted to chamber a round by pulling the slide back on the gun,” Travaglia wrote. “As he did this, a bullet was ejected from the weapon, and it is believed that a second round was chambered. The subject then picked up the ejected bullet.”
Travaglia wrote that during an interview with investigators, Beamud said “he pulled the ‘slide’ on the gun to intimidate the bank employees.”
Beamud has long been known to Salem police. He is the “primary and sole suspect” in a suspicious fire investigation in Salem, according to deputy police Chief Shawn Patten. That fire destroyed Beamud’s family home Feb. 18, 2012.
He was also arrested Feb. 7 in Salem and charged with felony cocaine possession and a misdemeanor charge for transporting a controlled drug, after police discovered he had packed up and apparently planned to leave the area.
Before that arrest, Beamud had worked as a confidential informant for police.
Beamud’s father, Rafael Beamud of Lawrence, has had his own troubles. In September, U.S. Marshals arrested a Salem, N.H., fugitive who was hiding in the elder Beamud’s home.
Rafael Beamud is a former Cambridge police officer and owner of the Copa Club in Lawrence. In September, the U.S. Marshals said they would summons the elder Beamud for hindering the apprehension of a fugitive and harboring a fugitive.