Tuesday, October 31, 2000

'Average Joe' pleads guilty to 11 bank robberies

By Jane Prendergast
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        LEXINGTON — The nondescript man with brown hair and glasses stood before a judge Monday and finally admitted to being “Average Joe.” That's Average Joe the bank robber, who eluded authorities in two states for more than two years.

        Daniel Schwarberg, a former Comair Inc. employee, pleaded guilty in federal court to robbing 11 banks, including three in Northern Kentucky.

        When U.S. District Judge Henry Wilhoit asked Mr. Schwarberg if he committed the 11 robberies, he responded: “Yes, sir, I did.”

        Mr. Schwarberg, 43, of Verona, will be sentenced in March. He agreed to a plea deal that, officials said, likely will result in a sentence of about 63 to 78 months.

        Without a deal, he could have gotten that much for each robbery.

        He also was helped by the fact he only claimed to have a gun, but never displayed one in the robberies, committed from 1998 through July. Brandishing a weapon would have automatically increased his prison time.

        “I think the defendant got good advice from his attor ney by trying to wrap all this up in one package,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Murphy said. “I think that will minimize the amount of sentence he would potentially have had to face had he contested the charges and gone to trial in two or three different jurisdictions.”

        Mr. Schwarberg was arrested in July after two Lexington police officers stopped a vehicle thought to be involved in the robbery of a Lexington Bank One branch about an hour earlier. They were immediately

        suspicious when he started offering an explanation for why he was in Lexington — even before they asked.

        He also faces charges for six robberies at Ohio banks. He has not pleaded guilty in those cases.

        Among those watching Monday's proceedings was FBI Agent Doug Warner, the Northern Kentucky investigator who had tracked the robber since his first known hit at a Crestview Hills branch of Star Bank (now Firstar) in February 1998.

        The plea hearing brought some closure for the agent, who often wondered aloud over the past two years if he'd ever find the man who so easily eluded authorities despite the many close-up pictures of him circulated after each hit.

        It was the agent's first time to see the man to whom he gave the nickname Average Joe.

        r “He was very articulate and very well-spoken,” Agent Warner said later Monday. “But he was pretty nondescript. The name fit.”

        The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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