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Satellite helps nab robbery suspect: South Hill bank teller puts $37,920, GPS tracking device inside duffle bag
[January 10, 2006]

Satellite helps nab robbery suspect: South Hill bank teller puts $37,920, GPS tracking device inside duffle bag

(Spokesman-Review, The (Spokane, WA) (KRT) Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge) Jan. 6--For the first time in Spokane, a satellite and high-tech gear helped catch a bank robbery suspect.

Thomas R. Fricks was arrested Wednesday evening, just a few minutes after an armed masked man left a South Hill bank with a duffle bag stuffed with $37,920 and a hidden Global Positioning Device.

"You guys are good!" the surprised suspect said at gunpoint to arresting Spokane Police Officer Tim Moses, according to documents filed in U.S. District Court.

The device allowed Spokane police, working with Washington Trust Bank security officials, to immediately track the suspect's getaway van to a location near Eighth and Park.

During the 5:20 p.m. robbery, a masked armed man herded three bank employees into the bank vault, threatening to kill their families if they didn't cooperate, the court documents say.

One teller, who was on the phone with her husband, told him that the bank was being robbed and to call police.

The robber then threw a black duffle bag to another bank employee and said he wanted $40,000 "and no bait bills," according to the court documents.

The masked robber fled as bank security cameras took his photo.

"The electronic tracking device, which had been included with the money, did function," allowing a satellite and computers to tell police the location of the fleeing get-away vehicle, the documents said.

In the suspect's 1997 burgundy Dodge Caravan, police recovered a large black duffle bag, containing a loaded BB gun and the cash believed stolen from the bank located at 611 E. 31st Ave.

Interviewed later by FBI agents, the 38-year-old suspect confessed to robbing the bank.

"Fricks admitted to having worn camouflage clothing, a mask, boots and goggles during the robbery," according to the court documents.

"Fricks assumed that he had been caught as the result of some type of GPS tracking device, which he assumed had been placed with the money," the documents said.

At a brief hearing Thursday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Cynthia Imbrogno ordered Fricks held without bond until a detention hearing on Monday.

"This was an armed take-over robbery," Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Harrington told the court, arguing that Fricks should be held without bond. "He threatened to kill employees' families if they didn't comply with his demands."

Fricks, a balding, slightly built man, wiped tears from his eyes in court and spoke in a barely audible voice, asking for a public defender.

Fricks earlier told FBI agents he robbed the bank because "of his inability to keep a steady job and his need to provide for his family."

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