Home Chicago Press Releases 2009 Public’s Help Leads to Identification and Arrest of “Debonair Bandit”
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Public’s Help Leads to Identification and Arrest of “Debonair Bandit”

FBI Chicago January 13, 2009
  • Special Agent Garrett Croon (312) 829-1199

Robert D. Grant, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI); Jody P. Weis, Superintendent of the Chicago Police Department (CPD); and Thomas Dart, Cook County Sheriff, were joined today by Gregory Jones, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Atlanta office of the FBI, in announcing the arrest of a suspect in a string of bank robberies in Chicago by an individual dubbed the “Debonair Bandit.”

JAMES I. HOWZE, age 48, whose last known address was 10232 South Prospect in Chicago, was arrested earlier today, without incident, by FBI special agents in Atlanta.

HOWZE has been the subject of an intense manhunt by the Chicago FBI’s Violent Crimes Task Force (VCTF) since being charged in a criminal complaint filed last month in U.S. District Court in Chicago with one (1) count of bank robbery, which is a felony offense. In the complaint, HOWZE is alleged to have robbed the Chase Bank branch, located at 35 West Wacker Drive in Chicago on December 23, 2008.

According to the complaint, HOWZE entered the bank just after opening and approached a teller. He then placed an attache case on the counter and orally announced a robbery, demanding cash from her drawer. After receiving approximately $1,400 in cash, HOWZE fled the bank on foot, disappearing into the passing crowd.

Following the robbery, bank surveillance photos were publicized in the local media, resulting in numerous tips which identified HOWZE as the robber. Subsequent investigation by the VCTF confirmed HOWZE’s identity and traced him to the Atlanta area, where he was arrested today.

HOWZE had been dubbed the “Debonair Bandit” and was suspected of the armed robbery of at least five (5) banks in Chicago, dating to November of this year. He was given the moniker due to his well dressed, almost dapper appearance, including the use of an attaché case and a trademark fedora, which he wore in all of the suspected robberies.

In announcing this arrest, Mr. Grant wants to recognize the invaluable assistance provided by the public in this case, whose tips lead to the identification of HOWZE as a suspected serial bank robber. Said Mr. Grant “The cooperation of the public has been a cornerstone of effective law enforcement in the United States for over 200 years. The arrest of a suspect in this case proves once again the importance of this partnership and cooperation.”

HOWZE will have an initial appearance before a U.S. Magistrate Judge in Atlanta, later today, at which time he will be formally charged. If convicted of the charge filed against him, HOWZE faces a possible sentence of up to twenty (20) years incarceration.

The Chicago FBI’s VCTF is comprised of FBI special agents, detectives from the CPD, and investigators from the Cook County Sheriff’s Police Department.

The public is reminded that a complaint is not evidence of guilt and that all defendants in a criminal case are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

EDITOR’S NOTE: A copy of the criminal complaint filed in this case is available from the Chicago FBI’s Press Office at (312) 829-1199.