'Burly Bandit' Apologizes To Rockland FCU Employees For Hold-Up

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NORTH ATTLEBORO, Mass. — A hefty bus driver-turned-robber who pleaded guilty to a string of 11 robberies recently wrote letters apologizing to employees of the Rockland Federal Credit Union and local police for his crime in May.

Robert Ferguson, a 47-year-old Greyhound bus driver from Lowell, dubbed the "Burly Bandit" because of his hefty build and penchant for using disguises, is being held in county jail in Maine, where one of the heists occurred, and is awaiting sentencing.

In two, neatly handwritten letters, Ferguson expressed profound remorse for his "despicable act" in the North Attleboro heist and says he wishes he could apologize in person and pleads for forgiveness. The letters apparently are being sent to media outlets in the communities where Ferguson committed the bank robberies, according to his lawyer. The letters were part of counseling he has been receiving in jail, specifically in analyzing and acknowledging his conduct and its impact on the CU employees.

In the Rockland Federal holdup, Ferguson told a teller it was going to be a bad day, demanded $50,000 and showed her the handgrip end of what appeared to be a black gun in a black briefcase. Law enforcement officials said the gun turned out to be a toy weapon.

"I truly never ever intended to physically harm you in any way whatsoever. The words I used to coerce my selfish, desired results were my only weapon. Regretfully, and with great remorse, I now realize that this weapon was just as lethal to the mind as a gun would have been to the flesh," one of the letters states.

"The haunting memories of your innocent and unsuspecting faces, as they changed from warm and friendly smiles to those of sheer terror and controlled panic, are burned into the skin of my soul like a bad tattoo — there for all to see and to remind me for the rest of my life of what I've done," the letter states.

Ferguson also offered an apology to the North Attleboro Police Department, "whose quick response to the distress of my actions put their lives and the safety of the good residents of North Attleboro at risk and in harm's way." In the other letter addressed to an editor of "The Sun Chronicle," Ferguson wants the credit union employees to know he will never again be a threat to them as they continue to live what I sincerely hope will be the peaceful and safe life they so richly deserve.

Both letters are signed "Sincerely, Robert C. Ferguson III."

Prosecutors say Ferguson spent much of the $107,000 he stole at strip clubs and restaurants and on sports memorabilia. The stolen cash paid for some purchases for his car, including stereo equipment, as well as some high-priced outings such as the Blue Man Group in Boston, a Charlie Daniels Band concert, and a Mother's Day dinner at an exclusive steakhouse. Prosecutors say he was a big tipper at strip clubs, dropping $2,000 to $3,000 a night. He also bought sports memorabilia and other items.

The Burly Bandit was responsible for a string of heists in Connecticut, New Hampshire and Massachusetts, including at Digital CU in Tyngsboro, Mass., on May 5, Pawtucket CU in Warwick, R.I., on May 27, and Rockland FCU in North Attleboro, Mass., on May 27.

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