Police Blotter (Crime Report)
Cops say man admits being Boonie Hat Bandit
The FBI says this man -- known as the "boonie hat" robber is responsible for about a dozen bank holdups in St. Charles and St. Louis counties since November 2007. (Handout)By Patrick M. O'Connell
To neighbors, Donald Keith Giammanco was a friendly single dad who liked talking about golf and the stock market.
To police and the FBI, Giammanco is the so-called "Boonie Hat Bandit." The Boonie Hat Bandit's string of robberies
St. Louis County police and the FBI said today Giammanco is the man who has robbed 12 area banks in less than a year, gaining the nickname for the type of military hat worn in two robberies.
Giammanco, 44, of Florissant, was arrested Thursday afternoon as he drove away from a Commerce Bank in Fenton. On Friday, Giammanco was charged with first-degree robbery in connection with the Fenton robbery and three others in St. Louis County.
Authorities said Giammanco has admitted to all 12 robberies committed by the "Boonie Hat Bandit." The FBI said it is pursuing federal indictments in the other robberies.
"We are confident this is him," St. Louis County police detective John Bradley said.
Giammanco allegedly stole more than $100,000 in 11 of the robberies, not including the money recovered Thursday by police from the getaway car. Authorities did not detail what they believe Giammanco did with the allegedly stolen money. Police said there was no weapon in the car. He is being held at the St. Louis County Jail on $100,000 cash-only bond.
In all of the robberies, the robber handed the bank teller a note demanding money and did not display a weapon.
"As he continued to rob banks, that potential for violence continued to increase," said Maxwell D. Marker, assistant special agent in charge for the FBI's St. Louis division. "We're so happy he's off the streets."
Giammanco chose banks in congested areas so he could blend into the crowd as he left the area, Bradley said. Giammanco also modified his look, wearing hats and jackets in winter and changing his look at the weather warmed, always wearing the headgear pulled down low over his face. The FBI has said Giammanco likely monitored the surveillance videos shown on the Internet and TV to tweak his appearance.
"He realized there would come a time when the police would catch up with him," Bradley said. "I don't think he thought it would be yesterday, but I think he was relieved."
Giammanco was charged Friday with the robbery of the Commerce Bank robbery at 487 Old Smizer Mill Road in Fenton, and robberies at the Bank of America branch at 2412 Taylor Road in Wildwood on Aug. 29, Bank of America at 707 Gravois Road in Fenton on March 28 and the Commerce Bank at 12633 Dorsett Road in Maryland Heights on April 10.
Giammanco, who was arrested driving away from the scene of a bank robbery on Thursday, lived in a brick ranch home in the 1000 block of Aubuchon Street in Florissant until spring, when neighbors said he moved out. The house, on a quiet tree-lined street of well-maintained houses and lawns, has a for-sale sign in the front yard and a "public nuisance" sticker from the city of Florissant on the front window.
Neighbors said Giammanco, who they knew as "Keith," lived there for about nine years with his twin daughters. He was friendly but a little odd, neighbors said, and usually around during the day in recent months.
Herman Schmoele, who lives around the corner from Giammanco's old house, said he sold his blue Mercury Grand Marquis to Giammanco for $9,500 in July 2004. Giammanco was arrested Thursday driving the Grand Marquis away from the Fenton bank.
Schmoele and Giammanco went to the bank together for the car transaction, where Giammanco had a check made out to Schmoele for the full amount of the car. Giammanco usually parked the car outside in the driveway.
"He was an odd guy," Schmoele said. "He was always walking around outside on the phone."
When the noon news flashed three pictures of the "Boonie Hat Bandit" on the television screen in Schmoele's living room, Schmoele and his wife still couldn't tell it was their long-time former neighbor.
Schmoele said Giammanco was constantly bragging about the next big thing he was going to purchase. But Schmoele never pegged him as a bank robber.
"I didn't think he was that type of guy," Schmoele said. "Never even thought of it."
Michele Lewis, who lives across the street from Giammanco's former home, said Giammanco often talked about online day trading and had offered to teach her husband some tips. Lewis said Giammanco was friendly and intelligent, "an overall nice guy," and "just one of those middle-age bachelor-type of guys" who took care of his teenage daughters.
"He never had a day job, that I know of, and looking back on it now that kinda makes sense," Lewis said. "It's just a shame because he seemed like a really nice guy."
Giammanco attended the surprise 30th birthday party Lewis threw for her husband about three years ago, and he fit in with everyone else at the gathering, eating and talking with partygoers, Lewis said.
Lewis had seen a few of the pictures of the "Boonie Hat Bandit" and a description of the getaway car, but she never suspected Giammanco. One of the photos, of the bandit in a blazer and wearing a goatee, "looks nothing like him," Lewis said.
"Now, when I look at the pictures I can kinda see the resemblance, but we really had no reason whatsoever to think it was him," Lewis said.
Here's the list of bank robberies blamed on the bandit:
#11: Bank of America branch at 2412 Taylor Road in Wildwood on Aug. 29.
#10: Bank of America, 1555 Jungerman Road in St. Peters, on June 10.
#9: Bank of America at 4189 Veterans Memorial Parkway in St. Peters on May 5.
#8: Commerce Bank at 1699 Clarkson Road in Chesterfield on May 5.
#7: Commerce Bank, 12633 Dorsett Road in Maryland Heights, on April 10.
#6: Bank of America, 707 Gravois Road in Fenton, on March 28.
#5: U.S. Bank, 9819 Watson Road in Crestwood, on Feb. 29.
#4: Bank of America, 16900 Chesterfield Airport Road in Chesterfield, on Feb. 1.
#3: Bank of America, 4189 Veterans Memorial Parkway in St. Peters, on Dec. 31.
#2: Bank of America, 200 Westfield Drive, in St. Peters, on Dec. 18.
#1: Bank of America, 1311 S. Fifth Street in St. Charles, on Nov. 2
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