Bank Robberies: The Value of Witnesses

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SCRANTON -- Police continue to get calls about a serial bank robber who has held up 10 banks in Lackawanna, Wayne, and Monroe Counties in little more than a year.

Sources tell Newswatch 16 authorities are considering if the robbery of a PNC Bank branch in West Pittston last week is the work of that same serial robber.

Sources say the disguise and height of the robber are similar but add there is more to look at before police can link this bank robbery to the 10 others.

Federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies are hoping there's a witness out there who will come forward to help stop the serial robber who's hit 10 banks in our area. If not, police say it's only a matter of time before that man robs bank number 11.

Sometimes, law enforcement needs a lucky break to catch a serial bank robber. They got one in early 2015, after Timothy Fenster held up five banks in Wyoming and Luzerne Counties, all within a month and a half.

FBI Special Agent in Charge Sean Quinn showed Newswatch 16 the evidence prosecutors planned to use at Fenster's trial before he pleaded guilty.

"These shoes were a dead match for some of the video that we had," said Special Agent Quinn. "You'll see things like this decal that would show up on the camera footage."

The BB gun Fenster showed tellers while demanding money looks and feels like a real pistol.

"There's nothing about it that tells you it's not real when you're the person on the other end of it," said Quinn.

But they key piece of evidence was a woman's accessory worn during one of Fenster's last holdups. It caught the eye of an alert witness.

A turquoise scarf was worn by Carey Bartoo of Luzerne County as she entered court to testify against her ex-boyfriend Hugo Selenski at his double murder trial in 2014. It was on the front page of the Citizens Voice newspaper.

And a witness to a bank robbery noticed the scarf, telling police it looked just like one used by the holdup man to cover his face.

And after the witness came forward, the FBI tracked down Hugo Selenski's ex-girlfriend and linked Bartoo to another one of her boyfriends -- Timothy Fenster.

When confronted with the evidence, Fenster pleaded guilty to five bank robberies last year. He's now serving a seven-and-a-half-year prison term.

Fenster was the fifth serial bank robber in our area to be caught in the last decade.

Four are now serving time in federal prisons, one awaits trial.

Law enforcement officials in our area hope there is a witness with a clue that will lead to the arrest of the man who has robbed 10 banks. There's also a $35,000 reward.

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