The Free Press, Mankato, MN

October 24, 2013

Bank robbery suspect left revealing note

Iowa authorities identified suspect before his arrest for local robbery

By Dan Nienaber

---- — MANKATO — It didn't take long for authorities in Iowa to identify a bank robbery suspect, a man who was arrested three days later after allegedly robbing a bank in Eagle Lake last week.

All they had to do was look at his loan application.

When a robber walked into the Keystone Savings Bank in Center Point, Iowa, Oct. 12, he grabbed a loan form and a pen to write a note that demanded money and said he would kill bank employees if they didn't comply. Before writing the note, however, the robber also took some time to fill in several boxes, according to a search warrant application filed in Blue Earth County District Court.

The man wasn't completely honest as he filled in the boxes. But investigators said he provided enough information for them to identify a prime suspect, 25-year-old George "Ricky" Gaunt, before the day was over.

The warrant application was used by Blue Earth County sheriff's detectives to justify a search of the car Gaunt was driving and to take a DNA sample by swabbing the inside of his cheek. It said investigators with the Linn County Sheriff's Department in Iowa also wanted a DNA sample to link Gaunt to a bicycle they believe was used in the Center Point robbery.

According to the warrant application, the Keystone Savings Bank loan form used for the robbery note had the name, Social Security number, address, phone number and occupation lines filled in. The name, birthday and occupation information didn't lead to anything, but the Social Security number started with 406; the address was 10 Audry St., Ludlow, Wis.; and the phone number had an 859 area code.

Investigators checked the address and learned there is no Ludlow, Wis., but there is a Ludlow, Ky, that had a 10 Audry St. address. They also found out that 406 was the first three numbers of Social Security numbers issued in Kentucky and that 859 was an area code used for phone numbers in a city near Ludlow.

A detective then used the Internet to find a phone number for the address and an FBI agent made a call. The man who answered the phone was related by marriage to Gaunt and a man who would eventually become a second suspect in the Center Point bank robbery, 29-year-old Justin Wade. He told the agent Gaunt was wanted after walking away from a halfway house about two weeks earlier and he had heard that Gaunt and Wade were traveling together.

A photograph of Gaunt that was found through social media matched a surveillance photo that was taken of the Center Point bank robber, the warrant application said. Investigators also learned that Wade owned a car that was seen in the area of the bank robbery, the same car that was confiscated from Gaunt after the Oct. 15 robbery of the Peoples State Bank in Eagle Lake.

A witness told Linn County detectives that the Center Point bank robber had arrived on a bike and left on a bike. Shortly after the robbery, another witness said a car matching the description of Wade's car had been driving through his neighborhood. Its driver left after another man rode up on a bike, dropped it and got into the car, the witness said.

That bike, which is the one detectives suspect has Gaunt's DNA on it, had been purchased at a Wal-Mart in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Surveillance video from that store allegedly shows Gaunt and Wade purchasing the bike before leaving in a car that looked like the 1995 Nissan Maxima now in custody of the Blue Earth County Sheriff's Office.

There is no evidence linking Wade to the Eagle Lake robbery, Capt. Rich Murry of the Blue Earth County Sheriff's Office said Thursday.

"Our information was that this guy was involved in the previous incident, but we don't think he had anything to do with this robbery," Murry said.

A news release from Linn County Sheriff Brian Gardner said Wade also is in custody, but it didn't say where. It also said Gaunt is a suspect in two Virginia bank robberies that happened earlier this month.