A former Capitol Hill press secretary who has twice been convicted in bank robbery cases was in handcuffs again this week, charged with the same type of crime.

Montgomery County police said they arrested Thomas C. Springer, 56, of Garrett Park on Tuesday morning after a witness who saw him rob a bank in Kensington called 911 while following the getaway car, a blue Geo Metro.

Police said Springer is responsible for at least seven other bank robberies committed in the county since November 2004. He was being held without bond at a Montgomery County jail yesterday.

"He's a sick boy, and he has a serious manic depressive illness," his aunt, Helen Ossofsky, said yesterday. "He needs hospitalization badly."

Ossofsky, 83, said robbing banks seems to be the way her nephew deals with his childhood demons. "I think he grew up hating his father," who was a banker, said Ossofsky, a child psychiatrist.

Ossofsky said she called Montgomery police this year and told them she was worried that her nephew was suicidal. Police -- presumably unaware that they were dealing with someone who would become a suspect in a bank robbery case -- took him to the county's crisis center, Ossofsky said.

Ossofsky said Springer has declined to take lithium for his mental illness.

"He said it ruined his creativity," she said.

According to newspaper accounts, Springer's initial robbery arrest in 1989 stunned colleagues on Capitol Hill, where he had worked as an aide and press secretary for several members of Congress since 1976. He spent about a year in federal prison after being convicted in three robberies in Maryland.

Springer was arrested again on bank robbery charges in October 1995. He served a little more than a year in a federal prison in North Carolina, his aunt said. She said he had been delivering flowers recently.

"He was making $10 an hour doing that," she said.