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No bail for notorious bank robber in Oakland holdup

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

YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: A federal judge this afternoon ordered that notorious bank robber — who once taunted authorities while holding up nearly two dozen banks across the country before they put him in prison for 25 years — be held without bail in connection with a $4,658 Oakland bank robbery last month.

John Edward Stevens, 59, who holed up in Brooklyn after being released from prison only two weeks earlier, is charged with several counts, including bank robbery and various weapons and eluding offenses.

Stevens was arrested after Waldwick Sgt. Robert Woessner pulled over his getaway car on April 15 and found a TD Bank bag with the cash and a handgun inside. Less than 20 minutes earlier, the TD Bank branch on Ramapo Valley Road in Oakland had been held up.

According to a complaint on file is U.S. District Court in Newark, Stevens “admitted to FBI agents that he had robbed the TD Bank.”

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.

He was released from the federal pen in Otisville, N.Y. (Orange County) in early April.

Just before 10:30 on April 15, 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.

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