In a 4-part series, the Louisville Courier-Journal tells the tale of how a serial bank robber operated for 20 months before he was caught. The first time David Brankle robbed a bank, says the paper, he was so ill-prepared that he had to stuff handfuls of cash into his jacket because he forgot to bring a bag. By the time he robbed his 27th bank, he was giving advice to a teller. “I’ve never done one of these before,” she told him. “What do I do?” “Well, you give me all your money, and I put it in this bag, and then I leave,” Brankle replied.
In a 20-month spree that ended just before Christmas 2003, Brankle held up 43 banks in six states. Police dubbed him the Interstate Bank Mart bandit, reflecting his penchant for robbing banks inside supermarkets and near interstate highways. Downloading escape routes from the Internet and casing banks weeks in advance, Brankle took in so much in cash – $175,141 – that he got sick of counting it and even asked a teller during where he could buy a counting machine like one in the bank. He was one of America’s most prolific bank robbers, eluding 52 police agencies – none of which ever identified him by name or caught him in the act. Brankle, 48, was apprehended last New Year’s Eve in Vincennes, In., two days after he’d fled from a police officer who’d stopped him for a traffic violation. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced last month in U.S District Court in Cincinnati to 21 years in prison for robbing 10 banks and for using a gun while carjacking a vehicle he used in most of the holdups: an $80,000 BMW he took from a salesman during a test drive in Louisville.