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Bank robbery charges filed, bail set for Minneapolis man

Mark Edward Wetsch

WORTHINGTON -- Bail was set at $300,000 Thursday for Mark Edward Wetsch, 49, of Minneapolis, who is accused of robbing the Rolling Hills Bank & Trust of Brewster.

Wetsch made his first appearance in Nobles County District Court Thursday on a complaint that contains charges of aggravated first-degree robbery, terroristic threats and theft. The bail amount was set on the condition he not leave the state and that his passport remain in the custody of the Nobles County Sheriff. The investigation on Wetsch's activities is ongoing, and additional charges are anticipated, according to Nobles County Attorney Gordon Moore, who is handling the prosecution of the case at the present time. The case will likely be moved into the federal court system once an indictment is filed.

According to the criminal complaint, Nobles County Dispatch received a report at 11:49 a.m. Tuesday that a man had entered the bank wearing a mask, displayed a small black revolver and asked the bank teller for cash.

The teller told the investigator the man entered the bank, threw down a white plastic bag and demanded she put bills of 100, 50, 20 and 10 dollar denominations in the bag. While she was complying, he hollered at her to hurry. He then left through the front door, carrying the bag that contained the cash, including some $10 bait bills. She estimated there was $1,800 in her drawer that she had given the man.

According to surveillance video, the man was in and out of the bank in less than a minute.

St. Peter Police Detective Travis Sandland, aware of the robbery and that a silver Ford Edge had been used in a robbery in St. Peter Dec. 22, estimated what time the suspect would pass through his jurisdiction if headed toward the cities and stationed himself on Minnesota 169 to watch for the SUV.

When a vehicle matching the description drove past, Sandland and another officer stationed on the highway initiated a traffic stop.

The driver, later identified as Wetsch, had his window down and was holding his wallet as the officers approached. Sandland noticed the man's hands were shaking, the complaint states.

The license plates on the vehicle were registered to PV Holding Corporation of Minneapolis, a rental car company.

Wetsch did not react when the detective explained about the robbery, and when asked where he had been travelling from, said he was coming from Mankato. Wetsch consented to a vehicle search, stating he did not have any guns or other weapons.

In the middle compartment between the front seats of the vehicle, the officer observed a large amount of currency and the grip of a handgun. Wetsch was placed under arrest, and agreed to give a statement.

He allegedly stated he had left Minneapolis that morning intending to rob a bank, using his cell phone to locate banks in smaller towns. He arrived in Heron Lake and watched the bank there, but decided there were too many customers, so he drove on to Brewster. He said he parked behind the Rolling Hills Bank & Trust and approached the bank wearing a black face mask and a stocking cap. The back door was locked, so he entered through the front, Wetsch told authorities. He described the teller as appearing startled when he pointed the gun in her direction and demanded money.

He allegedly stated he counted the money as he was driving and thought he had about $1,500, which he described as not being that much. He said he had a bad feeling about the robbery, and while driving used a scissors to cut up is jacket and throw it out the window.

Wetsch said he never intended to hurt anyone, which is why he used a toy gun which he had colored with a black Sharpie marker. He said he was planning to use the money to travel to Africa the next day. He also allegedly stated he had found his first robbery the easiest and that they became more difficult as they went on, which he believed was unusual.

When the vehicle was searched, authorities found the previously described money, which included the $10 bait bills, shoe covers, and a cell phone. Inside a bag, they found a wallet, checkbook, passport, papers and a computer disk. The wallet contained more than $2,500.

According to Moore, the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) learned Wetsch and his wife had plane tickets to travel to Nairobi, Kenya on Jan. 4. The round trip tickets had a return date in late February.

"Obviously they were concerned about this in light of (Wetsch's) lack of contacts with Nobles County and the fact that he was charged with this bank robbery," Moore stated Tuesday afternoon. "(Wetsch) told Judge Flynn in court today that it was a planned trip to visit his wife's family and that he had no plans to flee and wasn't a flight risk because his father lives in Grand Forks, N.D. and he has children who live in Minnesota."

The investigation into whether or not Wetsch is the serial bank robber known as the "Man in Black" is ongoing. According to law enforcement officials, the investigation involves multiple jurisdictions, which will make for a complex and lengthy inquiry.