Pittsfield man charged with three armed bank robberies
This story has been modified to correct the plea to not guilty.
PITTSFIELD — A city man charged with robbing banks in Pittsfield and Hampshire County at knifepoint told police he did it to pay back rent to his landlord.
Mike Bedford, 42, of North Street, was arrested early Friday after officers had obtained arrest warrants in connection with the Dec. 30, 2015, robbery of a Pittsfield branch of Greylock Federal Credit Union and robberies at the same South Hadley branch of Berkshire Bank on Jan. 7 and Dec. 8, 2016
Bedford stole a total of about $14,000 over the course of the three robberies.
Tips from the public helped identify Bedford as the suspect in the heists, and he told police after his arrest he was, in fact, responsible for all of them.
In the Pittsfield robbery, police were dispatched to the bank about 5:55 p.m. for the report of an armed robbery. The suspect was identified as a black male, wearing a black and red hooded sweatshirt, jeans, a dark mask, gloves and sneakers. He entered the bank, brandished a knife and demanded cash. He was handed $2,580 before leaving the bank.
A week later, a South Hadley branch of Berkshire Bank was robbed in a similar manner by a suspect also described as a black male, wearing jeans, gloves and with his face obscured by a scarf and brandishing a knife and demanding cash from two different tellers. The suspect fled with about $6,500 in that robbery.
On Dec. 8, 2016, the same South Hadley bank was again robbed by a suspect with a similar description to the previous two robberies, brandishing a knife and demanding cash. He left with about $5,000 cash.
Because of the similarities in the method of the robberies and the description of the suspect, Pittsfield and South Hadley police reached the conclusion the same suspect was likely responsible for all three robberies.
On Dec. 21, 2016, an anonymous caller contacted Greylock Federal Credit Union branches in Pittsfield and said Bedford was the person responsible for the robberies.
An anonymous caller also left a message that same day with the South Hadley Police that Bedford was the person who robbed the banks. That caller gave Bedford's full name, address and described the type of vehicle he drove.
Pittsfield Police also received an anonymous tip that day from a male who described himself as a "concerned citizen," and said Bedford committed the robberies and also provided his home address.
A check of Bedford's information showed he lived at the address provided in the messages and he was known to drive a car like the one described.
Bedford was driving such a vehicle when he was stopped by Dalton Police on Feb. 21, 2016, for a license and crosswalk violation.
On Feb. 27, 2017, investigators were contacted by another informant who was able to provide a description of Bedford, his vehicle, information about where he worked and was able to confirm the identity of the person who had made the earlier calls to police regarding the robberies.
He told police, soon after the first two robberies, he overheard Bedford speaking on the phone, saying he'd robbed a pair of banks and admitting he'd used a knife to do so.
He told police he'd also heard Bedford make the same admission a few weeks later and recognized the sneakers from the surveillance images as Bedford's.
The informant was also able to provide specific details about the robbery, including the amounts of money stolen, which was not made public at the time, and where the getaway vehicle was parked.
Based on the information gathered, police were granted arrest warrants for the three robberies and Bedford was placed under surveillance beginning on March 16 and continuing into the early morning of March 17.
When he left the house about 12:30 a.m., police pulled his vehicle over and placed him under arrest.
During his interview with police, Bedford admitted to the three robberies and provided details only the perpetrator would know. He told police he robbed the banks because he was behind in his rent and paid his landlord with the proceeds from each robbery.
He also told police there would be evidence from the most recent robbery in the trunk of the car he was driving, and where they could find the knife he'd used in all three robberies.
In the trunk of the car was a backpack containing the clothing and gloves used in the most recent robbery.
Police also found rent receipts showing that Bedford made significant cash payments soon after each of the robberies.
Bedford had a not guilty plea entered on his behalf in Central Berkshire District Court on Friday to a charge of armed and masked robbery in connection with the 2015 Pittsfield robbery.
He was also arrested on warrants out of Eastern Hampshire District Court for the South Hadley robberies.
Bedford's attorney, Ryan Smith, requested his client's presence at his arraignment be waived. Judge William Rota granted the request and ordered Bedford held without bail pending a dangerousness hearing, scheduled for March 22.
Reach staff writer Bob Dunn at 413-496-6249 or @BobDunn413 on Twitter.
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