A bungled escape attempt in which a suspect tried but failed to get into a car after a holdup Monday led authorities to the arrest of White House guard John A. Bachmann Jr. on charges of robbing a Laurel bank.
A teller at Citizens National Bank followed the lone robbery suspect to the bank parking lot after the holdup Monday and watched as he attempted unsuccessfully to get into a red 1977 Chevette, according to an affidavit filed in the case. Instead, the suspect, who allegedly took $4,060 from the bank, abandoned the car and walked away from the area, the affidavit said.
While police searched for him, the car disappeared from the lot, but authorities, working with the car's Maryland license number, traced its ownership to Bachmann, a 29-year-old member of the Uniformed Division of the U.S. Secret Service, the affidavit said. FBI agents from the agency's Hyattsville office called Bachmann at his White House job Monday afternoon and asked him to come in for an interview. Bachmann complied.
According to the affidavit by an FBI agent investigating the case, Bachmann initially denied any participation in the robbery, but later said "that he was indeed the man who robbed the Citizens National Bank at 16123 Laurel-Bowie Rd."
The robbery occurred at 9:05 a.m. when a man entered the bank, presented a brown paper bag to a teller and told her he wanted her tens and twenties. At the same time, he opened his coat and exhibited a revolver, stuffed in a holster on his belt, according to authorities. With more than $4,000 in the bag, the man left by the front door and was followed into the lot by another teller.
After interviewing Bachmann Monday, authorities searched the red Chevette and recovered $480, including five "$20 bait bills," money with recorded serial numbers that banks routinely include in their cash, according to authorities. Also on Monday, Bachmann accompanied agents to his apartment at 14800 Fourth St., in Laurel, and turned over $2,580 in cash, which included another five "bait bills," according to the affidavit.
Bachmann also gave agents a blue baseball cap, blue jacket, maroon shirt, blue jeans and brown shoes -- the clothing allegedly worn by him during the robbery, according to the affidavit.
An FBI spokesman said authorities still are seeking the rest of the stolen money.
After a night in the Prince George's County Detention Center, Bachmann appeared Tuesday before a U.S. magistrate and was released under a $5,000 property bond, backed by real estate owned by a relative.
Bachmann was represented by assistant federal public defender Paul Kemp, who said that he could not comment on his client's case while it is pending.
Bachmann joined the Secret Service's Uniformed Division on July 19, 1976, according to Jack Warner, assistant to the director for public affairs. Joining the division, which includes 800 officers, requires the same top-secret security clearance and full background scrutiny that plainclothes agents who protect the president must receive, Warner said. The uniformed officers are stationed at the White House or at embassies, foreign missions or chanceries in the District of Columbia.
Officers now start at a salary of $16,900 annually, and Bachmann, with five years experience, would have been earning between $18,000 and $19,000 annually, Warner said.
Warner refused to disclose details of Bachmann's assignment at the White House, citing the security nature of the job.
Bachmann lives in a high-rise apartment building, where neighbors say apartments rent for about $300 a month.