HOLBROOK — Two Linden men believed to be the notorious “High Country Bandits” were arrested by FBI agents at 9 o’clock this morning in connection with a four-state spree of armed bank and credit union robberies that began with the robbery of the Bank of the West branch in Heber last Sept. 8.
Joel Jay Glore and Ronald Michael Capito, both born in 1958, were arrested following a week of surveillance by agents of the FBI, the Navajo County Major Crimes Apprehension Team (MCAT) and the Gang and Immigration Intelligence Task Force (GITTEM).
According to Navajo County Sheriff K. C. Clark, FBI agents arrested Glore at Summit Healthcare Regional Medical Center in Show Low, where he was being treated for a ruptured appendix. Simultaneously with the arrest of Glore, FBI agents executed search warrants at the Linden homes of Glore and Capito. Capito was arrested at his home.
The High Country Bandits are believed to be responsible for as many as 16 robberies of banks and credit unions in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah. Compass Bank in Pinetop was robbed last December 4, and the pair is also believed to be responsible for robberies in Flagstaff and Payson.
Sheriff Clark said the men would typically enter a bank near closing time, brandish semi-automatic handguns and demand money from the teller drawers. After obtaining the money, the men would order everyone to “kiss the ground,” then exit the bank and depart on ATVs. The ATVs would be loaded onto a van in which the men would leave the area.
“They were becoming increasingly brazen and aggressive,” Clark said, although no one is believed to have been injured in the robberies. Clark said the men were difficult to identify because they wore ski masks and were careful to show no skin.
Clark praised the Pinetop FBI office and local agent Jay Rominger.
“This was an FBI operation from start to finish, and Jay took the lead,” Clark said. “Literally every law enforcement agency in Navajo County contributed to the effort, but it’s fair to say that Jay is the hero.”
Clark said an FBI briefing at 8 a.m. at the Show Low Fire Department preceded the arrests at 9 a.m. Participants included GITTEM, the Navajo County Sheriff’s Office, and the Police Departments of Payson, Pinetop-Lakeside and Show Low.
“I think we were ready for any contingency, but everything went smoothly,” Clark said.
Sheriff Clark said he could not reveal any details as to how Glore and Capito were identified as suspects, but he said it took an intensive effort over a period of several months. Clark said Navajo County Attorney investigators Bill Cloud and Bruce Tucker provided critical assistance to the FBI in analyzing data and predicting where the suspects might live or strike next.
County Attorney Brad Carlyon said Cloud and Tucker were recently hired with grant funding provided by the U. S. Department of Justice.
“When we applied for the grants, we emphasized how much these positions could contribute to intelligence-led policing in Navajo County and how much benefit they could be to all law enforcement agencies in the county,” Carlyon said.
“It’s gratifying to see these positions pay dividends like this so quickly.”