BANGOR, Maine — A Massachusetts man accused of robbing a bank in Orono last month and who is a suspect in 10 other robberies across New England pleaded not guilty Monday in U.S. District Court.
Magistrate Judge Margaret Kravchuk accepted the plea of Robert Ferguson, 47, of Lowell, Mass., before adding him to the trial docket list for Oct. 5.
FBI agents also are investigating Ferguson, a former Greyhound bus driver, in a string of bank robberies across New England between April and July. Ferguson closely matches the description of the suspect, who has been dubbed the “burly bandit” by FBI agents because of his heavy build.
He was arrested in Maine on July 14, one day after he allegedly entered the Bangor Savings Bank on Park Street in Orono and ordered a customer service representative to hand over money.
According to an FBI affidavit, Ferguson told the employee that he had a two-way radio that was being monitored by a friend outside. If she did anything wrong “he would start shooting and his friend would come into the bank and also start shooting,” the document stated.
After bank employees filled the bag with money from the drawers, Ferguson allegedly took the bag and left on foot toward Old Town.
Surveillance video footage and interviews with bank employees gave police a good description of the suspect. Early the next morning, an employee at the Days Inn on Odlin Road in Bangor called police to report that a man matching the bank robber’s description was staying at the motel.
Ferguson was arrested after he was interviewed by police and FBI agents. A blue bag containing cash was found in an electrical panel inside a storage area of the bus Ferguson drove from Boston to Bangor.
Witnesses also told police they saw a U-Haul truck parked along the street near the bank when the robbery occurred. Surveillance cameras at the U-Haul store in Bangor showed Ferguson wearing a different-colored shirt and carrying a dark-colored bag when he returned the rented vehicle, according to the affidavit.
Shortly after his arrest in Maine, a warrant was issued for Ferguson out of Rhode Island that charged him with robbing the Pawtucket Federal Credit Union in Warwick on May 27.
The FBI also is probing nine other robberies involving an unidentified suspect who matches Ferguson’s description. According to the FBI, the “burly bandit” has worn sunglasses, a wig and a variety of hats, including a straw cowboy hat, during the rash of robberies that have occurred in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut and New Hampshire since April.
FBI spokeswoman Gail Marcinkiewicz said Monday that Ferguson does not have any other federal charges pending.
However, if Ferguson is indicted by federal grand juries in other states for bank robberies attributed to the “burly bandit,” the cases could be consolidated into one case in one federal court. Additionally, an attempt could be made to link Ferguson to the other robberies through the DNA sample the FBI said he gave voluntarily to investigators in Bangor.
Both Ferguson’s attorney, Jon Haddow of Bangor, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Nancy Torresen declined Monday to comment on the case.
The suspect will be held without bail until his trial. He could face up to 20 years in federal prison and fines of up to $250,000 if convicted.