Friday, March 23, 2007

Bank robber caught after profile appears on MySpace

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A man suspected of robbing several Arkansas banks has been featured in a video for about a month on the popular social networking Web site MySpace.

Now Arkansas police could add his mug shot to the Web page.

Ernest Gail Lail, 67, appeared in a Van Buren, Ark., court Thursday, on a charge of aggravated robbery. Police said they believe Lail, who has given his address as Concord, N.C., committed six bank robberies in Arkansas cities.

The robberies got national attention after a police sergeant in Fort Smith, Ark., put photos and video from a January robbery on MySpace in early March. He titled the page "Do You Know Me???"

Over 1,800 people signed up to be "friends" of the robber.

Fort Smith police Sgt. Jarrad Copeland said the robberies got local media coverage, but police weren't getting tips. That made Copeland think the robber was from elsewhere.

"I was just trying to think of a way to get the pictures to a broader audience," he said.

The Web page seems to pay homage to the bank-robbing lifestyle. Video shows the robber sweeping stacks of bills into a bag. He looks posed in some still pictures. The page has $100 bills as wallpaper. The background music is the "Bad Boys" theme from the TV show "Cops."

The MySpace member page says the robber wants to meet "more bank tellers so that I can continue my crime spree!!!"

Copeland said Lail had been serving a federal prison term for a bank robbery in the 1960s and was released on parole in September. He listed Concord as his address with parole officials.

The MySpace page apparently did not directly help officers find Lail. He was arrested after he wrecked his car Wednesday, fleeing from a bank robbery in Van Buren, said Lt. Brent Grill of Van Buren's investigation division.

"It would have been kind of a cool deal if someone recognized him from MySpace," Copeland said. He said the page still may have helped, in that so many people were on alert.

"So glad to hear that you caught him," a "friend" named Stacy posted Thursday. "I have to admit though I think we will all miss the page. Maybe all law enforcement should use MySpace to help catch these losers."

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