Police say addiction drove man to rob banks

VERGENNES — Vergennes police portray the man suspected of robbing two city banks as a desperate drug addict who was nevertheless remorseful for his actions.
Police arrested 44-year-old Addison resident Ricky D. Putnam, late on Saturday afternoon after he voluntarily came to the Vergennes Police Department.
They cited him for one felony count of armed robbery — technically assault and robbery with a weapon — for robbing the People’s United Bank at the corner of Main and North Maple streets on March 13 and another felony count of assault and robbery on March 27 for robbing the Vermont Federal Credit Union at the United Technologies Corp. plant at 100 Panton Road.
Putnam also told police he had gone into the National Bank of Middlebury branch in Hinesburg earlier on March 27 with the intention of robbing it, but got scared and backed out, according to a police affidavit.
Putnam was held without bail until he was arraigned on Monday at Addison Superior Court, criminal division, in Middlebury; he pleaded innocent to the charges and was sent to the Northwest Correctional Facility in St. Albans for lack of $10,000 bail. He faces a prison sentence of one to 15 years on the first charge and up to 10 years on the second charge.
Putnam allegedly stole $7,400 between the two robberies, according to a court affidavit filed by Vergennes Police Sgt. Brent Newton, who said they recovered some of that money stolen from the credit union from Putnam’s Volkswagen Jetta.
Police allege that Putnam, wearing a mask, went into the People’s United Bank in downtown Vergennes at a little after 2 p.m. on Friday, March 13, demanded $8,000 cash and banged a knife on the counter. After a teller gave him $4,035, Putnam told police he fled on foot to his car, which was parked near the Vergennes Post Office, according to the affidavit. He threw the knife into a ditch while driving.
Police circulated surveillance camera footage from People’s United. On March 27, Vergennes police received a photo from the National Bank of Middlebury branch in Hinesburg of a white man who entered wearing a mask, took off the mask and left the building. Putnam later allegedly told police he lost his nerve after intending to rob that bank.
Later that Friday, at about 4:15 p.m., a man in a hooded sweatshirt entered the Vermont Federal Credit Union branch at UTC (formerly Goodrich Corp.) and demanded cash. He was described as white, about 5 foot, 6 inches tall, medium to stocky build, wearing sunglasses, a black or blue neck gaiter, dark gloves, blue jeans, tan shoes, a baseball cap and a gray, zipped hoodie.
A bank teller, the affidavit said, told police the robber entered “yelling ‘give me the money’ while flailing his arms, and then approached the counter and banged on the counter while still yelling to give him the money.” Sgt. Newton wrote in his affidavit, the teller “told me the robber’s behavior was so bizarre, she almost thought it was a joke.”
Police said the robber, unlike in the first incident, did not display a weapon.
The teller turned over $3,365 in cash, and the man fled. UTC security officials noted a silver VW Jetta in the parking lot during the robbery.
Police responded and were told the thief left in a gray sedan that was headed toward West Main Street, and with the help of Vermont State Police and game wardens set up checkpoints trying to find the robber, snarling late afternoon traffic on Friday, but the effort was unsuccessful. Putnam told police he fled to New York State that night because he was scared he might be caught.
Once bank security photos were published this past Friday evening after the VFCU robbery, several tips, including from Addison County Sheriff’s Department Deputies Gerald and Jill Grant on March 27 and then an unidentified informant on March 28, helped lead police to Putnam, according to court documents.
The informant also told police Putnam’s family members “were discussing the bank robbery in Vergennes on Facebook. The family members identified the robber as Ricky Putnam.”
The informant told police on March 28, “Ricky was known to have a heavy drug problem.”
Police spoke with members of Putnam’s family, who were cooperative, and asked them to pass on a message to him to come into police headquarters. While awaiting the results of a search of Putnam’s cell phone records, Vergennes police received a call from a family member saying he was coming to see them to “clear things up.” He showed up around 4:19 p.m., accompanied by a sister.
At the Vergennes police station, police allege that Putnam confessed to the robberies, “seemed relieved to admit his actions,” and said he had been sober for eight years but had recently “relapsed after finding cocaine while fishing, and since had been heavily using cocaine.”
After the alleged confession, police said they obtained Putnam’s permission to search his Jetta and found $2,071 in cash in a plastic bag that was in a bucket in the trunk of the car. This included marked “bait cash” taken from the credit union. According to the affidavit, Putnam said he spent $1,400 buying cocaine in Rutland.
Prior to being taken to jail on Saturday evening, Sgt. Newton wrote in his affidavit, “Putnam asked how much he owed the banks.”

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