Sunday, July 16, 2000

Many knew Average Joe suspect as a buddy

By Jane Prendergast
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        A “wanted” poster hung over the bar last week at T.G.I. Friday's in Crestview Hills. On it was a picture of a customer, a guy everybody knew and liked, who probably won't be back any time soon.

Daniel Schwarberg
        All week, regulars at Friday's buzzed about the arrest of their drinking and golfing buddy, Daniel Schwarberg, the Verona man who is charged with robbing a Lexington bank Tuesday.

        FBI agents and police officers in Kentucky and Ohio are trying to confirm that Mr. Schwarberg is Average Joe, the robber linked to 17 other, similar bank robberies in Kentucky and Ohio since February 1998.

        The bar patrons joked about how “Schwarby” probably won't make it to their next golf outing. One suggested that their next round of golf be named the Average Joe Golf Tournament.

        They chatted freely about Mr. Schwarberg, but declined to give their names. Some said they feared the FBI would come and quiz them; others said they didn't want to contribute negative media attention on a guy they considered a friend. One person pointed out that he never hurt anybody.

        One detail, though, struck them — from the restaurant, you can see the first bank Average Joe robbed.

        Agents are in no rush to throw additional charges at Mr. Schwarberg, who remained behind bars in Lexington on Saturday. They don't think he is likely to come up with the $100,000 cash bond. Investigators have learned that Mr. Schwarberg faced mounting child-support payments and had been working to pay off $15,000 in restitution from a 1994 theft conviction in Butler County.

        Even if he should somehow post that hefty amount in the Lexington case, there's a federal detainer waiting for him. So if he were released from jail on the state charges, he would go to federal court, where another bond amount would be set.

        The FBI will say little beyond that agents are busy working to make the link.

        “We have agents throughout the region working to develop information and evidence to see if he is responsible for other robberies in Kentucky and Ohio,” said David Beyer, supervisory special agent with the FBI in Louisville.

        Mr. Schwarberg, 43, a Comair ramp supervisor and divorced father who grew up on Cincinnati's west side, was arrested Tuesday afternoon. He was stopped in a rented car bearing stolen license plates as he drove into Scott County on his way to Northern Kentucky from Lexington.

        Two Lexington officers doing traffic duty on Interstate 75 spotted the gold Mitsubishi Mirage and thought it might be the one described in a dispatch about a vehicle involved in a bank robbery. Police credited a teller for getting a good description of the car and the officers for good heads-up police work.

        It was shortly before noon Tuesday that police say he robbed a Bank One there in similar fashion to Average Joe's 17 heists — with a computer-generated note and big-glasses disguise. Authorities found money in the rented Mirage, along with money wrappers labeled “Bank One.”

        Mr. Schwarberg is scheduled to return to court Thursday in Lexington. If convicted in federal court on just one count of bank robbery, he could be sentenced to 25 years in prison and fined up to $250,000.

        Meantime, investigators are putting together photo lineups and tracking down tellers from the previous bank heists. They are also interviewing Mr. Schwarberg's co-workers, family and friends.


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