MANHATTAN — The ‘Mad Hatter’ bank robber who hit 11 times since March — wearing different chapeaus each time — was finally unmasked Tuesday, when employees at the Popular Bank on West 90th Street in Manhattan recognized him from NYPD posters and started calling cops, before he could finish the heist.
Police sources told PIX11 that 34-year-old Joseph DiBenedetto of Staten Island was grabbed by cops on the street, after leaving the bank, because the money didn’t come fast enough.
DiBenedetto was still wearing sunglasses and a ‘newspaper boy’ cap when he was stopped as seen in a surveillance photo obtained by PIX11.
In the past, the robber would typically take off the hat, strip off a top layer of clothing and put on a different shirt on the street, as he made his getaway. He always wore sunglasses in the heists and had a reddish-brown beard.
Sources told PIX11 DiBennedetto confessed to the bank jobs, which started on March 15 this year, when he hit the Santander Bank at 34th Street and Lexington Avenue. His take was $2,200 in the first heist.
DiBennedetto was remorseful about the robberies and told detectives he was pulling off the jobs to pay for his heroin habit. He had a history of drug arrests.
When PIX11 did our story on the ‘Mad Hatter’ on July 26, we explained that he’d worn a black bike helmet in his July 18 heist at HSBC Bank on East 68th Street and Third Avenue. Surveillance footage showed him entering the bank wearing the helmet but with no bicycle in sight.
Inside HSBC, we showed you another surveillance clip of the helmeted man passing the teller a note, claiming he had a gun. He demanded cash in 50s and 100s and got agitated when the teller didn’t move quickly enough. He cursed at the teller to move faster.
The robber is then seen outside the bank, on a different camera, changing into a red shirt, taking off his hat and switching to a lime-green bag to carry his items.
Police said DiBennedetto used light and dark fedoras, baseball caps, the bike helmet, bland even knit caps to aid his disguises.
He is going to be charged by the FBI with federal bank robbery charges. Detective Cliff Parks of the NYPD’s Major Case unit worked extensively on the investigation. He had told PIX11 in July “he is very good at what he does. He’s in and out of there in less than two minutes. He’s calm.”
On Tuesday, DiBennedetto got nervous and left the bank without the money. He also neglected to take off his disguise.