FBI agent Ed Roach has restored a measure of lost pride to the bureau's Silver Spring office.
Before Monday there had been three holdups at the Citizens Bank & Trust Co. branch at 13975 Connecticut Ave. since Sept. 10. This occurred despite the fact that the FBI office -- 15 agents strong -- is in the same building, only two floors away from the ground-level bank.
"We were embarrassed," said Roach, who is responsible for the the office's bank robbery investigations.
"They see the FBI all day, except when they get robbed," he said. "It's like when you need a cop, there's never one around."
Roach himself was on hand Monday for holdup No. 4. He said yesterday he was leaving the building around 6 p.m. when he peeked into the bank -- as he and other agents had been doing frequently since the second robbery there Oct. 1 -- and saw a man at a teller's window whose description matched that of a suspect in the earlier holdups.
Roach said he entered the bank and stood at a table near the man. As the man left the bank, Roach said, the teller indicated a robbery had just occurred.
Roach said he chased the man about a half-mile and arrested him at Connecticut Avenue and Aspen Hill Road, after the man climbed aboard a commuter van that had just let off several workers.
Earlington Houston Motley Jr., 29, who Roach said moved to Silver Spring from Ohio shortly before the first holdup, was charged with the Monday holdup and is being investigated in connection with the three others, Roach said. Motley was being held last night at the Montgomery County Detention Center in lieu of $100,000 bond.
"I asked him if he knew the FBI office was in the same building," Roach said. "He said he didn't."
In each holdup, Roach said, a robber, who never showed a weapon, handed a teller a note, written on an oversized envelope, demanding $100, $50 and $20 bills. In all, less than $10,000 was taken from the bank, Roach said.
After the second robbery, he said, agents sat in the bank for two to three hours near the end of each business day, watching for the robber's return. He said agents also made it a point, each time they left the building, to look into the bank, which stays open until 8 p.m.
"It was to appease the bank -- and ourselves," Roach said. "I know everyone in the bank. They're saying, 'Hey, Roach, when are you going to catch this guy?' They were ticked off and we were embarrassed."
Roach said that as he and two other agents were leaving the building for their homes Dec. 22, they spotted a man in the lobby whose appearance matched that of the suspect. The agents studied him for several minutes, Roach said, but the man stood calmly.
Several minutes passed, and the agents left. Shortly after he arrived home, Roach said, he was summoned back to the bank. The man had just robbed it, the third holdup in less than four months.
"I said, 'Geez!' " Roach recalled.