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Brewster bank robber federally indicted

WORTHINGTON -- Mark Edward Wetsch, 49, of Minneapolis, was federally charged Tuesday with 13 counts of armed bank robbery.

The indictment was unsealed Thursday following Wetsch's initial appearance in St. Paul.

Wetsch was arrested in St. Peter in early January just hours after the Rolling Hills Bank of Brewster was robbed at gunpoint.

Authorities believe Wetsch is a serial bank robber known as the "man in black," responsible for more than a dozen robberies in Minnesota.

According to the indictment, Wetsch allegedly stole approximately $1,880 from the bank in Brewster on Jan. 3, brandishing a handgun and demanding cash.

Authorities were informed shortly before noon that a man had entered the bank wearing a mask.

Surveillance photo shows he was in and out of the bank in less than a minute.

He later told authorities he had left home that morning intending to rob a bank in a small town.

After watching the bank in Heron Lake, he decided there were too many customers in and out, so he moved on to the bank in Brewster.

He said he never intended to hurt anyone, which is why he used a toy gun.

He and his wife were planning to travel to Kenya the following day.

In the indictment, Wetsch is accused of robbing 12 other Minnesota banks for a total of more than $69,000.

He allegedly stole:

* Approximately $11,400 from the Klein Bank of Cologne March 9, 2011.

* Approximately $3,050 from the United Educators Credit Union of Eden Prairie April 26, 2011.

* Approximately $2,225 from Wells Fargo Bank in Faribault April 26, 2011.

* Approximately $9,445 from the Merchants Bank of Hampton May 13, 2011.

* Approximately $6,946 from the First National Bank of Gaylord, June 13, 2011.

* Approximately $8,823 from the First National Bank of Richfield Nov. 4, 2011,

* Approximately $3,801 from the Premier Bank of Albertville Nov. 9, 2011.

* Approximately $3,000 from the Bremer Bank of Minneapolis Nov. 22, 2011.

* Approximately $2,350 from the Franklin Bank of Minneapolis Dec. 20, 2011.

* Approximately $3,634 from the Wells Federal Bank of St. Peter Dec. 22, 2011.

* Approximately $9,350 from the First National Bank of Hastings Dec. 27, 2011; and

* Approximately $3,200 from the Glenwood State Bank of Alexandria Dec. 29, 2011.

The indictment accuses Wetsch of knowingly, by force, violence and intimidation, take from a victim teller United States currency in the care of a bank. In committing each offense, the indictment states, he did assault and put in jeopardy the life of another person by the use of a dangerous weapon.

Wetsch is now in federal custody, after spending the past month in the Nobles County Jail. If convicted, he faces a maximum penalty of 25 years in prison for each count. All sentences will be determined by a federal district court judge.

Wetsch had been charged in Nobles County District Court with first-degree aggravated robbery, terroristic threats and theft, but those charges will likely be dismissed as the robberies are pursued federally.

He has previous federal convictions of mail fraud after devising a scheme to defraud more than $1.3 million by filling out purchase orders for medical supplies and fabricating invoices to a fictitious company he created while employed as the director of nursing and home care at Sholom Home West in St. Louis Park.

In 2005, Wetsch was sentenced to serve more than three years in the federal prison in Yankton, S.D. In October 2011, he was sent back to the same prison for four months because of probation violations, which may explain the robbery-free period between June and November.

A notice to the court of a possible related case was filed Wednesday on both the robbery indictment and the mail fraud dockets.

Daily Globe Reporter Justine Wettschreck can be reached at