Carl Gugasian is an American prisoner who is serving a 17-year sentence for robbery. Known as "The Friday Night Bank Robber", he is perhaps the most prolific of such criminals in US history, having robbed more than 50 banks over a 30-year period, for a total of more than $2 million.
Gugasian was born October 12, 1947 in Broomall, Pennsylvania, to Armenian immigrant parents. At the age of 15, he was shot while attempting to rob a candy store and was sent to the State Youth Facility in Camp Hill for eighteen months. On his release in 1964, rather than attempting to live a normal life, he took deliberate steps not only to continue with a life of crime, but to excel in it. This decision was, in all likelihood, the result of a misunderstanding: Federal Bureau of Investigation agent Ray Carr remarks, "He didn’t know that juvenile records get expunged. He thought he’d never be able to get a real job."
In 1971, while studying for bachelor's degree in electrical engineering at Villanova University, he enrolled in the Reserve Officers' Training Corps, a college-based military recruitment program designed to produce officers for the US Armed Forces. After graduation, he served in the US Army at Fort Bragg and received special-forces and tactical weapons training. Following his stint in the military, he returned to college, earning a master's degree in systems analysis from the University of Pennsylvania, followed by doctoral work in statistics and probabilities at Pennsylvania State University. After his graduation Gugasian began to plan out mock robberies in his spare time. On eight separate occasions he was planning to commit his first bank robbery, however he repeatedly backed down before entering the bank. Eventually he committed his first offence using a stolen car as his getaway.
Gugasian is notable for the meticulous way in which he planned and executed his robberies. He would begin by scouting for a bank in a particular location by studying topographical and street maps in the library, searching specifically for banks in small towns, close to wooded areas, on the other side of which was a road with easy access to a freeway. He would further narrow the search by selecting banks with late closing times in the autumn and winter months, so that the darkness would cover his escape. He would then create a cache to stash any evidence connecting him to the crime (including the money) immediately after the robbery. He would later return to retrieve the stuff once the "heat" was off in a few days. Once a location was selected, he would observe the bank from the cover of the woods for several days, noting the habits of the employees, then on a Friday night, a few minutes before closing time, he would strike, under the assumption that his timing would both minimize the number of customers at the bank while maximizing the amount of available cash to steal.
For the robbery itself he would don a gruesome face mask, typically resembling a character from a horror film, that he had modified in order to make it look as threatening as possible and also to fit his face snugly so as to hide the color of his skin. He would then dress in bulky clothes in order to hide his true build and, brandishing a pistol, he would burst into the bank moving quickly and crab-like so as to make assessments of his height and build difficult to ascertain. Once he reached the counter, he would vault it in a standing jump, landing on the other side with a loud crash, terrifying the staff and customers, then he would stuff as much money as he could find into his bag and leave quickly, the entire process taking less than two minutes.
Once outside the bank, he would run into the well-scouted woods, where a dirt bike was waiting, stash the evidence in his cache, then ride the bike a few miles through the woods to an anonymous-looking panel van waiting on the other side. He would load the bike into the back of the van and drive onto the freeway in order to complete his escape, ensuring that he would be miles away from the scene of the crime before the police would be able to get any fix on his getaway route.
Gugasian did resort to violence at least one time in his long career of robbing banks. He shot a bank manager in the abdomen upon entering the bank after the startled manager reacted to Gugasian by leaning his body forward toward him. The bank manager later recovered from his gunshot wound.
Capture and incarceration
In the end, despite his meticulous planning and execution, it was a simple case of bad luck that led the police to Gugasian's home. He had hidden all the details and equipment for his robberies, his maps, face masks, survival rations, weapons and ammunition in a concrete drainage pipe, sealed inside individual PVC pipes, which were found by two young teenage boys who were playing in the woods near their home in Radnor, Pennsylvania. This find enabled police to construct a more accurate profile and, after questioning local residents, they had a list of names, which eventually led to Gugasian's arrest.
Once arrested, Gugasian proved to be just as meticulous in providing help to the police in closing the book on all his unsolved crimes as he had been in robbing the banks, which resulted in a reduction of his initial 115-year sentence down to seventeen years. He is serving his time at the Federal Correctional Institution at Fairton, New Jersey, where he teaches calculus to other inmates. He is due to be released in the summer of 2021, by which time he will be 73 years old.
On July 26, 2007, Gugasian became the suspect in an unsolved bank robbery that had occurred in Susquehanna Township, Pennsylvania, more than 26 years earlier. At the time of that robbery, Sergeant Robert "Bo" McCallister had responded to the bank's alarm and confronted the robber at the scene, who then fled. McCallister gave chase, but was shot and seriously injured and the robber managed to escape. Lt. Richard Pastucka visited Gugasian at the prison where he is being held and questioned him about the crime, but a confession was not forthcoming.
||This biographical article needs additional citations for verification. (July 2012)|
- The Bureau, TV show, ID Channel, 1-6-10
- Carrie Cassidy (2007-07-27). "Cold case heats up". The Patriot-News. Retrieved 2007-07-28.