Serial Bandits Used Amish Disguises In Bank Robberies (1995)

While preparing today’s other post on stolen Amish puppies, I stumbled across an old article on a bizarre story I’d never heard mention of before. On November 5, 1995, the New York Times reported the following:

When the reports of a bank robbery in Wall Township came into the F.B.I. office in Newark on Oct. 25, agents knew it was the same two men who had been robbing banks in central and southern New Jersey for two years.

The men were efficient, aggressive and disguised as Amish farmers.

The last job, they had on what appeared to be fake beards,” said special agent Ann Todd, spokeswoman for the Newark F.B.I. office. “They both had black hats with a small brim. These guys are so distinctive. They are very systematic. They do things the same when they do every job.”

It seems the idea started with one man, later adopted by the second:

One of the men has used the disguise since the first bank robbery, in Linwood on Oct. 23, 1993. The pair has hit seven other banks since then, and the second robber has begun wearing the disguise, including a fringe beard, round glasses, a dark jacket and a collarless white shirt. Agents say they do not know why the men dress like the Amish, who are known for their pacifism and avoidance of modern technology like cars and telephones.

The pair were quite successful at their illicit occupation:

In a series of eight robberies, the men have taken more than $250,000. That is “an extraordinarily large amount of cash” to obtain through bank robberies, Ms. Todd said. According to F.B.I. figures, about $2,000 is taken in the typical bank robbery.

The robbers’ system involved always removing the banks’ surveillance tape (this was a pre-digital era). I guess that’s why we only have a crude sketch.

So does this story have a happy ending? I was not able to find any other reports besides this one, or any further information, on whether these bandits were ever caught.

The article closes with agents puzzled at why the men thought dressing as Amish was a good idea:

Federal agents said they could not speculate about why the two men have chosen Amish-type clothing. There is no indication that they are from Pennsylvania, which is where most of the country’s 80,000 Amish live.

“For bank robbery, it is not a very good disguise,” Ms. Todd said. “It’s not like a ski mask or a gorilla mask, which covers your whole face.”

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    8 Comments

    1. Geo

      Authenticity matters

      Let us not deny that these robbers may actually be Amish. It seems grossly discriminatory to deny the Amish the possibility of being bank robbers just because of their religious affiliation. That being said, it seems to me that these robbers identities could be narrowed down to membership in a certain community by the design of their getaway buggy. I’m just sayin.

      1. Authenticity Matters.

        You’re being facetious, I hope?

        Was an accent detected, for example, of the bank robbers?
        A strong Germanic accent? Was German spoken at all during their robbery?

        There are other clues that would help determine whether they were, or weren’t Amish.

        And, the design of their getaway buggy? If they used a getaway buggy, and were Amish, they should have been caught a long time ago.

        No, I’d go with the original story that the men were Englishers, disguised as Amish.

        1. Geo

          Equal opportunity

          I don’t know. Look how hard it was to catch OJ’s Bronco. Of course true Amish would never use a bronco. Amish horses are well mannered. That being said, the getaway horses may be key to the investigation as horses are well known to carry tails. German accents may not provide a clue but what about fake vs real beards? Real Amish would never wear fake beards as that would not be authentic Amishness. Everyone has the freedom to do wrong regardless of their religion. Anything less is religious discrimination in violation of the first amendment. True Americans believe bigly in the Constitution.

    2. I’d Like Some, Please?

      Geo,

      I don’t know what you’ve been smoking / drinking / ingesting, but if I ever decide to lose touch with reality, I’ll be sure to let you know.

      With that, I wish you well, and I am departing this thread of conversation.

      Be well, and enjoy.

    3. Geo

      satire

      Erik had you noticed that some folks don’t recognize satire even when they step in a steaming pile of it? (no Amish buggy reference intended)

    4. Michael Bush

      Amish Robbers

      This is an actual story. The men committing those robberies were my father Lawrence Bush and his brother David Bush. They were eventually caught in 1996 and my father got 26 years in federal prison and my uncle got 18 years. My father was released in August of 2019.

      1. Do you have a link to any online source confirming that? I couldn’t before, and still am not able to find a whit of information on any resolution of this case, even when I include the names you’ve provided in my search. You’d think there would be more information out there on it, given the unusual nature of the robberies.

        1. Michael Bush

          I have never been able to find anything online besides this article and one I previously found several years back that detailed his arraignment in federal court. As far as I know that didn’t reference them as “Amish Bandits”. I’ve tried for the past year to FOIA the Dept of Justice for anything related to the case. I do know from my father the FBI had over 900 hours of surveillance of them both. Interestingly enough after their last bank robbery, they had already been under surveillance for many months, my uncle was arrested shortly after. My father however eluded capture for I believe 11 days getting in several chases. The longest one went from Newark NJ to Mt Laurel NJ all while being pursued by NJ State Police. He eventually turned himself in at the FBI office in Linwood NJ under the condition he be allowed to speak to my brother and I briefly.