Richard Edward Meissner Jr., a professional golfer who is the son of a retired District of Columbia policeman, has been charged with robbing a bank of $13,605 in Montgomery County on Wednesday. A federal prosecutor said at Meissner's arraignment yesterday that he also is a suspect in a dozen additional bank robberies.
Meissner, 33, who lost the privilege of participating in Professional Golfers Association tournaments when he failed to earn $5,000 in winnings on the PGA tour last year, was jailed under $50,000 bond on charge of robbing the Maryland National Bank branch at Montgomery Mall on Wednesday.
An FBI agent said the other bank robberies of which Meissner is suspected were committed in recent months in Maryland, Virginia and Delaware by a robber who has become known as the "Beltway bandit" and who carries a vinyl-type briefcase, displays a weapon and asks for large bills.
Meissner, known professionally as Ricky Meissner, has been playing golf since he was 12 years old, won the Maryland Schoolboy Championship in 1962 and was named "junior of the Year" that year.
Friends said he qualified to participate in the PGA tour twice before losing his PGA card last year. He has worked as an assistant golf professional, but friends said yesterday he was not currently employed as an assistant pro.
His friends and relatives expressed disbelief at his arrest, and his father, Richard E. Meissner Sr. of Olney, said "I can't believe he would do anything like that."
"He's been through an awful trauma," his father said. He said his son, the father of boys aged 6 and 10, recently was divorced and has remarried and that his ex-wife is suffering from cancer.
"In order to play that game, you've got to have peace of mind" the elder Meissner said. "I don't think he did."
Dressed in blue jeans, a yellow T-shirt and white sneakers, Meissner sat in court in Alexandria yesterday as FBI agent Tom Fitzpatrick told U.S. Magistrate Quin Elson of the robbery with which he is charged.
Fitzpatrick said it occurred about 11:30 a.m. Wednesday when a man walked into the bank branch at 7101 Democracy Blvd. and demanded money. The man, armed with an automatic pistol, ordered two tellers to place money into a brown briefcase he was carrying, Fitzpatrick said.
"The holdup man then fled to the parking lot and droven off in a blue car," he said, adding that witnesses gave the car's license number to police.
The number was traced to Meissner's car, and Fitzpatrick said he went to Meissner's home at 2601 Park Center Dr., Alexandria, and talked to him about 3 p.m. Wednesday.
Fitzpatrick said he told Meissner there was insufficient evidence to arrest him and he left. After further investigation, he said, police arrested Meissner at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday on a street in North Arlington.
The agent said that to his knowledge none of the money taken in the bank holdup has been recovered.
Meissner told Magistrate Elson he has been giving golf lessions since last year's PGA tour and that he has been employed since June 1 as a teaching pro at the Montgomery Country Club.
An official that club said later Meissner was supposed to show up for work on Wednesday but never appeared. "He's never been employed at the Montgomery Country Club," he said.