Witnesses Take Stand Against ‘Straw Hat Bandit’ Robbery Suspect

PHILADELPHIA (CN) – Examining video footage of a holdup that occurred just minutes before a Pennsylvania bank closed its doors for the day, bank workers testified Tuesday against a man nicknamed the “Straw Hat Bandit” who is accused of robbing 11 banks and stealing close to half a million dollars between 2012 and 2016.

Said to have worn distinctive disguises during the crimes, Richard Boyle, 57, of Doylestown, sat in a Philadelphia federal courtroom in a suit and square-framed glasses on the second day of his trial for 11 counts of bank robbery, 10 counts of using or carrying a firearm, and 10 counts of money laundering. He allegedly stole $495,000 in cash during the robberies and laundered the money through his struggling business.

It was just before close on Sept. 28, 2012, at Penn Community Bank’s Wrightstown branch, then-assistant manager Marie Markham recalled for the jury.

“Just before we closed,” she testified, “a gentleman walked in with a ski mask on and a black bag and demanded money.”

Myra Hassinger, a teller working the counter at the bank, called Markham’s name when she spotted the man approaching. Assistant U.S. Attorney Sean McDonald pointed Markham out in security footage. Beside the robber, who was dressed in a suit jacket and a ski mask with white gloves, Markham appears in the lower right part of the frame with her hands up. Although he never pulled out a gun, she noted the robber kept his hand in his pocket as if he had one throughout.

“I was scared for my life and I wanted him to know that I wasn’t going to try anything,” Markham testified. 

Hassinger gave him everything behind the counter, including the bank’s bait money – bills with serial numbers on them that are used to track bank robbers.

“I just did what he said,” Hassinger testified. “I just wanted to get him out of there.”

Both workers noted that the robber maintained a relaxed demeanor during the stickup. 

“It was like he was calm,” Markham said. “Like he’s done this more than once and it didn’t even phase him.” 

After grabbing the money, he marched the workers into a back room at the bank and told them to sit in the chairs for a few minutes because “he was on foot and needed a couple minutes,” Markham said.

But Nino Tinari, Boyle’s defense lawyer, pointed out that neither woman made reference to the robber’s weight or height in their incident statements filed at the bank shortly after. 

Earlier Tuesday morning, Boyle’s parole officer Aileen Sabol testified that during the time frame these robberies occurred, Boyle was struggling to make payments on his home and to find a job after being released from prison in 2011 following his 2008 conviction for eight earlier bank jobs.

Boyle owed more than $100,000 in restitution, she said, but had paid only $1,200.

“There was no money left to return. He bought [a] BMW, paid bills, paid rent, bought medication for his family, and bought camera equipment with a plan to start a business,” Sabol testified, reading from her notes on a parole visit from 2011. 

Another one of her 2011 notes from a visit with Boyle and his wife and daughter indicates that he was distressed about being unemployed. 

“Car broken down,” Sabol wrote. “And they are now walking everywhere.”

Over the next few years, Boyle remained unemployed and on the hunt for a cheaper apartment that he and his family could afford on his wife’s salary. 

Boyle reported that he had gotten a job with a local painter and had started doing painting jobs himself over the next few years – although one witness testified that his work was so poor, she refused to pay him. 

Denise Palmieri testified that she hired Boyle to paint a few rooms in her Holland house in February 2013 after he was recommended by a family friend. He took longer than promised, she said, and left all of the rooms in worse condition than originally started, forcing her to hire another painter to fix the work he’d done.

In 2013, Sabol noted that Boyle asked to go to Florida for job training in aerial photography and the next year he founded his own aerial photography business, called Sky Eye View. Boyle told the parole officer in 2015 that business was going well and he had a few clients, one of which was Lisa James Otto Real Estate.

Elizabeth Otto, the owner of that now-shuttered business, testified Tuesday that she did not know or pay Boyle or Sky Eye View.

U.S. District Court Judge Gene Pratter is presiding over the trial.  

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