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FBI: Robbery suspect was compulsive gambler
Wednesday, June 25, 2003
BY JOSEPH RYAN
Times Staff Writer
Jeffrey A. Frevert was a chronic gambler on the brink of suicide and desperate for cash when he took to robbing three local banks as an apparent last resort, federal documents reveal.
Authorities arrested the 51-year-old Merrillville resident Saturday after a failed attempt to rob a Schererville bank he successfully robbed March 14, police said.
Frevert already had depleted his savings account, drained his retirement plan worth $35,000 and took out a $10,000 loan to quench his thirst to gamble, a criminal complaint filed by the U.S. attorney's office stated. In the span of seven months, he also had robbed three local banks, the document stated, slipping tellers notes and threatening to draw a gun.
Frevert was arrested when Liberty Savings Bank employees in Schererville saw a man in the foyer ominously slip a mask over his face as he prepared to enter, the criminal complaint stated. With memories of the March robbery fresh on their minds, the employees quickly called police.
Frevert reportedly couldn't get in the bank because the door was locked. He immediately left the building, escaping to his Dodge Ram pickup truck in the parking lot of a nearby salon, the documents stated.
Schererville Patrolman Don Dean was plugging away at seat belt checks nearby at U.S. 30 and Cline Avenue when the call went out. It took him no more than a minute to respond and pull Frevert over as he tried to leave through an alley, Dean said.
For such a heavy collar, nabbing Frevert initially was a rather lackluster bust.
"As far as my part, it went pretty easy," Dean said. "He didn't resist in anyway.
"After the traffic stop, stuff just started adding up."
After his arrest, federal documents stated Frevert initially tried to explain away the loaded .38-caliber pistol, disguise materials and robbery notes for tellers found in his pickup by saying he was only thinking about robbing a bank.
However, after a talk with his wife while in custody, Frevert broke down and agreed to a videotaped confession, according to documents. Frevert's wife, Teresa, could not be reached for comment.
Investigators also searched Frevert's two-story home at 7824 Taney Place, finding a suicide note, black knit hat and a batch of casino advertisements, federal documents stated. Frevert allegedly kept his gambling addiction a secret until admitting the family's dire fiscal situation to his wife in January.
Frevert allegedly already had robbed two of the banks by that time.
Even though one person is now in custody, authorities are not celebrating. Over the last year and a half, Northwest Indiana has been fruitlessly trying to beat back a plaque of bank robberies.
"I could probably count on one hand the number of bank robberies we had the first 15 years I was Munster," Police Chief William Sudbury said.
In the past year, Munster has had four bank robberies, one of which Frevert allegedly admitted to committing.
In all, 29 bank robberies occurred last year in the region. For the first six months of this year the total is nine. Only a handful have been solved, and investigators are looking at several that could be linked.
"We will do whatever we have to do to resolve this thing," said Mark Becker, head of the FBI's violent crime squad in Merrillville. "It has got to stop."
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