Charges Dropped, Added Against 'Bandit'

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Federal prosecutors dropped the credit union robbery charges in Iowa against Richard Matzke and brought new charges against the man suspected of being the eight-state "Credit Union Bandit" for the March 21 armed robbery at Siouxland FCU in nearby Norfolk, Neb., for which they believe they have a stronger case.

Authorities are focusing on the Nebraska heist because they found so-called bait money, marked currency, from the Siouxland FCU robbery, in an apartment Matzke shared with his fianc? in Urbandale, Iowa. Bait money is slipped into cash piles by tellers during robberies to help authorities trace cash later recovered during investigations.

Matzke, 57, was charged earlier with a May 2001 armed robbery at Ralston Purina Employees CU in Davenport, Iowa, and was being held last week as the case was moved across state lines pending charges in the Siouxland FCU case. Matzke is suspected in as many as 25 armed robberies in eight midwestern states over an 18-month spree, about 20 of them CUs, earning him the sobriquet The Credit Union Bandit.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Fred Franklin said Matzke is being investigated in several other robberies, but authorities may never know if he is the Credit Union Bandit. "We can only charge him with robberies that occurred in our jurisdiction," he said. "There gets to be a point where there's no further benefits to additional prosecutions."

Authorities were searching Matzke's possessions last week for cash that may have been stolen during some of the robberies. Police in Des Moines, Iowa, seized a metal footlocker, two briefcases, three suitcases, a cooler and two plastic storage containers from a rental locker registered to a woman acquaintance of Matzke in hopes the containers may hold evidence of the robbery spree or some of the stolen cash.

But FBI agents believe that Matzke may have gambled away much of the cash he allegedly robbed. Matzke is believed to have lost large amounts of cash at Lakeside Casino Resort in Osceola, Neb., shortly after several of the credit union robberies; in one instance a pit boss identified Matzke as a gambler who lost as much as $20,000 one night.

Matzke was identified as a suspect after his live-in fianc?e saw surveillance photos of the bandit published in the local newspapers. He has been charged with harassment by police in his hometown of Urbandale, Iowa, for allegedly threatening to kill her after she went to police with her suspicions.

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