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Accused Oakland bank robber once taunted police nationwide

Photo Credit: FBI
Photo Credit: FBI
Photo Credit: FBI

CVP EXCLUSIVE: For years, John Edward Stevens taunted authorities — calling and telling them “You’ll never catch me” while robbing nearly two dozen banks across the country — before they put him in prison for 25 years. Yesterday, a Waldwick police sergeant grabbed the recently-paroled Stevens after police said he robbed the TD Bank branch in Oakland at gunpoint of $4,000.

Stevens, 59,  who holed up in Brooklyn after being released two weeks ago, was charged with several counts, including various weapons and eluding offenses, after Waldwick Sgt. Robert Woessner pulled over his getaway car and found a TD Bank bag with the cash and a handgun inside, Sgt. Douglas J. Moore told CLIFFVIEW PILOT last night.

The TD Bank on Ramapo Valley Road was held up moments earlier.

John Edward Stevens, the getaway car, right (Boyd A. Loving photo)

CLIFFVIEW PILOT first reported Stevens’ arrest and identity, as well as the fact that he once was on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted List, on the New York State Police’s “Dirty Dozen,” and was featured on “America’s Most Wanted,” before federal agents cornered him in a Cincinnati motel in November 1988.

Authorities said Stevens — recognizable by an angular scar running down his forehead — had robbed nearly $1.5 million during a three-year holdup spree while remaining on the run.

Before going to prison, Stevens was known as a gambler who favored blackjack — and often used stolen money to place his bets.

The former bookkeeper and cabbie’s biggest heists included $50,000 and $13,000 hauls robbed from the very same bank in Albany a quarter-century ago.

He was both dangerous and arrogant.

Using various aliases and forged identities, Stevens eluded authorities for years. The FBI said he even called agents, saying, “You’ll never catch me.”

John Edward Stevens, above and facing camera, below (COURTESY: FBI)

Police almost had him in Manhattan: On Feb. 10, 1987, Stevens and an accomplice robbed $17,000 from what was then the Manufacturers Hanover Bank at 79th Street and First Avenue.

Stuck in traffic and seeing a New York City Police car pull up behind him, Stevens hit the gas, the FBI said.

He criss-crossed First and Second avenues with several NYPD cruisers chasing him, hitting speeds of 55 miles an hour while heading south along the East Side, sideswiping vehicles along the way.

At 63rd Street and Second Avenue, Stevens lost control of the car, which plowed into a group of pedestrians. He bailed out and ran through Second Avenue traffic before ducking into an underground parking garage, according to an FBI complaint.

Stevens was placed on the bureau’s “10 Most Wanted” list in May 1988 and six months later was finally caught while at a motel with his girlfriend.

Two weeks ago, he was released from the federal pen in Otisville, N.Y. (Orange County).

Just before 10:30 yesterday morning, Woessner pulled over Stevens’ getaway car on the Paramus Road exit from Route 17 South in Ridgewood after the Automated License Plate Reader (ALPR) in his cruiser alerted him that the vehicle had been reported stolen out of New York City, Moore said.

A short time earlier, a man described as having salt-and-pepper hair and wearing a baseball cap robbed the TD Bank branch.

Area schools were locked down temporarily.

Oakland police said Stevens chased customers from the bank, then lifted the cash from the tellers’ drawers.

They said the bureau will be handling the investigation and produce a complaint, which will likely will go to a federal grand jury.

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