From left, Medford police Officers Erik Baines, Josh Doney and Kim Budreau search for the man who robbed Liberty Bank on April 20, 2010. - file photo

You can't get away

A robber who held up a PremierWest Bank branch earlier this month still is on the lam, but his run might not last much longer if he follows in the footsteps of other Medford bank robbers.

While Jackson County has had few bank robberies — only three others this year and one last year, all in Medford — all suspects in those cases are in custody.

While one man, a suspected serial bank robber who faces federal charges of hitting seven banks across Oregon since late 2009, managed to elude authorities for months, most were arrested within days, police and court records show. One suspect was caught in four minutes.

"We're fortunate that we live in a community where a bank robbery is a big deal," Medford police Detective Sgt. Mike Budreau said. "Because we have relatively low crime, we can really attack something like this."

Robbers willing to target banks, knowing that they face security systems and potentially lengthy prison sentences if they are caught, are of particular concern to police, he explained.

"Any time they are this bold and brazen, who knows what they are willing to do?" Budreau said.

FBI statistics show that banks are where robbers get the biggest hauls. In 2009, the average loss in a bank robbery nationwide was $4,029, according to the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting Program. The average for all robberies was $1,244.

However, even a bank robbery that nets no money can land a robber in prison for years, as a Bend man found out after holding up Southern Oregon Federal Credit Union at 1380 Biddle Road on April 26.

Richard Lane Anson, 40, went into the credit union branch at about 2:40 p.m. and presented a note demanding money and claiming he had a gun. However, when the teller reached for the cash, Anson thought an alarm was triggered and ran out without any money.

Police identified him in surveillance photos and got a warrant. A Springfield police officer who had seen a bulletin about the robbery spotted Anson's car pulling into the parking lot of a Springfield bar on the evening of April 27. Officers surrounded the bar and were planning to go in when the anxious Anson ran out and was arrested.

He pleaded guilty July 1 in Jackson County Circuit Court to a charge of second-degree robbery, the charge that applies when a robber claims to have a weapon, and was sentenced to five years and 10 months in prison.

A Florida man who robbed a Liberty Bank branch just a few days earlier in April faces an even longer stint in federal prison.

Ronald Arthur Prothro, 56, of Daytona Beach, Fla., pleaded guilty on Aug. 25 to robbing the bank at 295 E. Barnett Road with a weapon.

Just before 10 a.m. on April 20, Prothro went into the bank, gave a note demanding money to a teller and lifted his blue windbreaker to show a black revolver tucked into the front of his jeans. He fled with $3,950.

Investigators showed the surveillance photos at nearby motels, where employees recognized the man as a recent guest and provided information about him and his car. Police got a warrant and sent out a bulletin to police across the country.

On April 25, a police officer and dog searching for drugs on the roadways near Tyler, Texas, spotted Prothro's sedan and arrested him.

The cross-country run involved in his robbery landed Prothro in federal court, where bank robbery carries a maximum sentence of 25 years. Using a gun in the crime carries a mandatory minimum sentence of seven additional years in prison and can bring a penalty of up to life in prison, Prothro's plea agreement explained. Prothro hasn't been sentenced yet.

The man known as the "Grandpa Bandit" faces federal charges in connection with robbing a Medford Bank of America and six other banks in a spree that started in October 2009 and ended with his arrest in Eugene on May 3.

Ferrell Lee Brier, 60, of Drain, is suspected of going into a Bank of America branch at 790 Stevens St. at 3:52 p.m. March 18 and presenting a demand note to a teller. Although police initially said no gun was seen, the federal indictment against him says he carried a Smith and Wesson .45-caliber revolver during the robbery, putting the teller's life at risk.

The indictment says he took $8,423 from the Medford bank. A few $20 bills and wrappers from bundles of money were found in the bank parking lot.

In all, Brier is alleged to have taken a total of $36,693 in the seven holdups, according to the indictment. Eugene police finally stopped him on May 3, several hours after a robbery at an Umpqua Bank branch in Eugene.

Medford Police Department's streak of ultimately seeing suspected bank robbers behind bars stretches back through 2009, when it took officers just four minutes to catch a suspect in the year's only bank robbery.

Medford police arrested Daniel James Rose, 69, on June 10, 2009, four minutes after an alarm signaled that a robbery was under way at a Key Bank at 2 E. Main St.

Bank employees quickly confirmed the robbery report and provided vital details about where the suspect had headed, enabling officers to arrest Rose a few blocks away by 10:14 a.m., police said. The entire $1,300 taken from the bank was recovered at that time.

On Oct. 29, 2009, a Jackson County Circuit Court jury found Rose guilty of second-degree robbery and he was sentenced to five years and 10 months in prison.

"Historically, we seldom get them leaving the scene," Budreau said. "We usually get them later."

Reach reporter Anita Burke at 541-776-4485 or e-mail

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