Why this bank robbery arrest was unlike most others
The arrest of an Upper West Side lawyer in a recent bank robbery goes against more than one pattern in these types of crimes, experts say.
A criminal defense lawyer was arrested earlier this month on charges of robbing a bank in Greenwich, Connecticut. Police also suspected her in the attempted robbery of another bank in Manhattan. Her background in law along with her familiarity with the criminal justice system made the woman an unusual suspect.
Meighan McSherry, 46, worked for the Legal Aid Society in the Bronx until a year ago and was living in a 15-story pre-war co-op in an upscale residential neighborhood in the Upper West Side of Manhattan. The second bank that she was accused of robbing, also in early August, was located in her own neighborhood.
“Bank robberies are considered violent crimes, and it is unusual to see a former attorney accused of such a crime,” said Paul Wiegartner, a former FBI special agent and a former special assistant United States attorney, who currently practices criminal defense attorney at Blanch Law Firm in Manhattan. “This particular case is unique in that the accused is not only a woman, but an attorney with a background of defending those accused of crimes.”
McSherry’s defense attorney, Connecticut-based Jennifer DeCastro Tunnard, told Greenwich Time that her client “had no knowledge of the alleged criminal behavior, and that McSherry had spent the previous evening in Pound Ridge, New York, and she had no memories after that and no knowledge of how she ended up in Greenwich.” The New York Daily News reported that McSherry’s neighbors claimed that she “had fallen on hard times.” The amount of money robbed from the bank was not disclosed by the Greenwich police.
“Even trauma can often trigger criminal behavior in the most educated and seemingly upright individuals,” Wiegartner said. McSherry had also been caring for her dementia-stricken mother, according to a neighbor who spoke to the New York Post.
“The crime seems very impulsive and reckless,” said Louis Kontos, assistant professor of Sociology and Criminology at John Jay Collegeof Criminal Justice.“The fact that [the suspect] made it easy for the police to catch her demonstrates that she really didn't do much thinking or planning.”
FBI bank crime statistics show that in 2011 the percentage of women in the about 6,000 individuals involved in robberies of federally insured financial institutions was 7 percent. This percentage has remained stagnant since. According to Kontos, “reasons for robbing banks do not differ substantially from males to females. But like most stealth crimes, bank robbery is something that men are far more likely to do.”
One of the most notorious of all female bank robbers in the U.S. was Bonnie Parker of the infamous duo, Bonnie and Clyde whose crime spree occurred between 1932 to 1934. In 1897, Cora Hubbard with a gang of three others robbed the McDonald County Bank in Pineville, Missouri. More recently, in 2013 a group of three prostitutes in Los Angeles started robbing banks in the city using disguises that got LAPD to believe that it was a one-woman job, leading them to dub “her” the ‘Starlet Bandit’ after the oversized sunglasses the gang wore as part of their disguises, reminiscent of Hollywood actresses.
Although police are considering that McSherry may have also attempted to rob the Upper West Side bank, there have been no charges. Despite the allegations of this theft, Kontos does not believe that McSherry is a career criminal. “If she was, she would use her resources and her position to enrich herself through a better planned, less risky, more lucrative, white collar crime,” he explained.