A Suffolk man was charged in three bank robberies Friday minutes after committing one, but an unrelated serial bank robber may be still on the loose as detectives face a rash of recent holdups, Suffolk police said.
George Swanton, 54, of Brentwood, was arrested 20 minutes after holding up the Chase branch on West Main Street in Babylon, police said. After the robber's description was broadcast shortly after noon, two First Precinct officers found him nearby on Railroad Avenue, police said.
Swanton was scheduled to be arraigned Saturday on two counts of third-degree robbery in the Chase holdup; two counts for Tuesday's robbery at a Bank of America branch on Montauk Highway in West Islip; and one count for the Jan. 11 holdup of a Citibank branch on Suffolk Avenue in Brentwood.
At all three banks, the robber told employees he had a gun and demanded cash from two tellers, police said. It was unclear last night how much was taken from the three branches.
The holdup at the Bank of America led to a commotion for railroad passengers when Suffolk police learned the robber had hopped into a cab and ordered the driver at gunpoint to take him to the Babylon train station area, police said.
One Long Island Rail Road train was canceled and two delayed as police searched the trains for the suspect.
The Chase branch that Swanton allegedly robbed also was hit Jan. 2 by a man who handed a teller a note saying he had a gun and wanted cash, police said.
There have been at least eight bank robberies along the South Shore since Jan. 2, including at least five along Montauk Highway.
"There's been an increase in Suffolk," said Det. Lt. Edward Reilly of the pattern crime unit, which handles robberies. "Why? I don't know."
He said there may be a second serial robber unrelated to Swanton.
"The other robberies are in the same area in the South Shore," Reilly said. "We don't know who's responsible for that."
He spoke as he and his detectives were at the scene of another bank robbery Friday, at an M&T Bank branch on Broad Hollow Road in East Farmingdale.
A robber at 4 p.m. handed a teller a note demanding money, police said, and took off with an undetermined amount of cash. He was described as heavyset, about 6 feet to 6 feet 4 inches tall.
Anyone with information may call Crime Stoppers at 800-220-TIPS.