In March 1993, two masked men with guns entered an a Long Island branch of European American Bank and left with $241,000. An armored car had delivered the cash right before the men arrived. It was the biggest bank robbery in Nassau County history.
Authorities suspected it was an inside job. Police arrested one of the bank’s tellers and also identified and arrested the getaway driver. Both were convicted for their roles in the heist and sentenced to up to 12 years in prison.
Police identified at least one of the masked men as Claude Bird, a 20-year-old from the Bronx. It would be 17 years before they got him. This week, Bird’s trial begins.
Authorities tracked down Bird’s whereabouts as early as 1994, but by that time he was in Jamaica. They requested extradition and local police arrested him, but Bird escaped from the Jamaican jail.
He made his way to Canada and snuck back into America. Bird applied for a new driver’s license in New York under the name of a dead person, Faraj Bilal. Over the following years, he got married and had at least five children.
Meanwhile, the teller and driver each served their time and were released.
In April 2010, Bird returned to the DMV to get a new driver’s license. This time he applied under his real name.
The DMV’s facial recognition technology matched Bird’s face to a previous license under a different name. DMV officials checked the records and found that Faraj Bilal had been deceased, and that NAssau County had a warrant out for Claude Bird’s arrest.
They alerted police. Bird was arrested and charged with six counts of armed robbery. He has pleaded not guilty.
The second masked man, identified only as “Angel,” remains on the loose.
Send story tips to the author, Albert Samaha