[Backround: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/01/11/AR2008011103785.html - WK]
By Dan Morse
Washington Post Staff Writer
January 15, 2008
A brazen swindle in Wheaton last week in which a man walked into a BB&T
bank dressed as an armored truck courier and walked out with $574,500 in
cash has been linked to a similar bank job the next day in Washington,
authorities in Montgomery County said yesterday.
Assistant State's Attorney Marybeth Ayres named Elizabeth K. Tarke, a
teller at the BB&T branch, as a possible ringleader. Detectives have
linked Tarke with Thursday's theft at a Wachovia branch in the District,
Inside Tarke's home in Olney, detectives found a slip of paper with what
appeared to be the Wachovia haul divided among nine conspirators --
coming to about $38,000 each, Ayres said at a bond hearing.
Three of those nine suspects remained at large yesterday, and more than
$700,000 was missing.
"Your Honor, this isn't your ordinary theft," Ayres told Maryland
District Judge Patricia L. Mitchell during bond reviews for five
Although Tarke's background was unclear, three of the defendants --
David P. Mbom, 38, Phillippe H. Ngassa, 46, and Ernest N. Yossa, 43 --
have ties to Cameroon, according to statements at the bond hearing. They
and a fifth suspect, Robert T. Tataw, remain held on bonds ranging from
$200,000 to $2 million.
A sixth suspect, Edmond K. Machie, 38, was previously released on a
Charging documents made public yesterday list details that led to the
arrests. Among them: The uniform donned by the fake pickup man was
incomplete; an incriminating receipt was left in a wallet; and at one
point, in a restaurant in the presence of a government informant, at
least five of the conspirators argued about how to divvy up the loot.
Yossa said during the hearing that he is an accountant for a hotel
chain. Tataw said he formerly worked as a civil engineer. Ngassa said he
has worked as a security guard and a driver for handicapped people. Mbom
and Ngassa spoke through a French interpreter.
According to the charging document by Montgomery County police officer
Kye Pak, the AT Systems courier who usually picks up cash at the BB&T
branch walked into the building Thursday. Employees told him that
someone had been in the day before, Pak wrote. The courier checked with
his supervisors, who said they had not gotten money from the bank, Pak
Pak wrote that bank officials called police, who then questioned
employees, including Tarke. She and a co-worker told the detective that
the man had an AT Systems uniform, a security badge and an ID card
around his neck, Pak wrote. Tarke said she was directed to put money in
a bag supplied by the man.
Detectives talked to other employees and grew dubious about Tarke's
story, Pak wrote. Other employees said they saw no "AT" patch on the
man's clothing, just an all-black outfit, with a black hat, gun belt and
semiautomatic handgun. They also didn't see a badge, Pak wrote. Bank
video corroborated their accounts, according to the charging documents.
Friday evening, detectives went to search Tarke's house. They spotted a
man, later identified as Mbom, leaving and getting into a white Ford
Explorer driven by Tataw, Pak wrote. Later, officers saw Mbom carry a
large duffle bag back to the rear of a Silver Spring residence.
Less than three hours later, an officer saw Tataw carry a bag out of the
residence, get into a small Toyota sport-utility vehicle and drive to a
Quality Inn in Takoma Park. Detectives searched a room there and found
$54,000, according to Pak.
Meanwhile, back at the Silver Spring address, officers watched Mbom
leave. They stopped him for a traffic offense, discovered an outstanding
warrant linked to a DUI case and took him into custody.
Pak wrote that police discovered a piece of paper in Mbom's coat listing
three figures that added up to $574,500, the amount taken from the
Wheaton bank. They also found a receipt in his wallet indicating that he
had purchased a black combat hat, security badge and a handgun hip
holster five days earlier.
According to the charging document and Ayres, an informant told
authorities that eight or nine people argued about the disbursement of
stolen bank money Friday night in a dining establishment operating
illegally out of a Silver Spring apartment. The informant named five of
those people as defendants.
Subscribe to InfoSec News