NEW YORK – The city's so-called Bouquet Bandit told police he used plants as props to deflect suspicion in a series of bank robberies spurred by drinking and drug use, newly released documents show.
Edward Pemberton said his technique was self-taught and his targets were self-explanatory: "It's where the money is. That's all," he said in a handwritten statement to police released Wednesday.
Pemberton, 44, was arrested after a security camera photo of a flower-toting suspect at a Manhattan bank counter on July 15 generated front-page headlines in the city's tabloids. He has since been charged with three bank robberies and an attempted bank robbery; he has pleaded not guilty to all.
The bouquet, neatly bundled in pink tissue paper and plastic, concealed a note that demanded $50 and $100 bills, authorities said.
Pemberton said in his July 21 statement that he'd picked up the flowers in a store on the way to the bank, a floral flourish he said he'd used in at least two other bank capers going back to 2009.
In one, he swiped a potted plant off someone's stoop and carried it during a July 8 heist, according to his statement. Though apparently unarmed, he presented a note that warned "I will shoot!" and was given about $1,900, according to court documents and his statement.
"I picked up the plant because if they would have seen me dirty and a male black like that, they would have gotten suspicious right away," Pemberton wrote.
He said he was wearing the same clothes he had worked in the previous day, having spent the night out dating and drinking.
Police have said he did odd jobs in Manhattan's flower district.
Pemberton's statement recounts six heists and attempted robberies dating to April 2008. He has been charged in four; charges related to two incidents, in 2008 and 2009, were added Wednesday. Prosecutors said they couldn't find needed witnesses to the remaining two robberies the statement mentioned, both in April 2008.
Defense lawyer Justine Luongo noted Pemberton isn't charged with hurting anyone.
"My client is accused of handing a teller some flowers and politely asking for money," she said Wednesday.
Pemberton described heists in elaborate detail, including bank names and locations, snippets of conversation with bank employees and musings on the wreck he'd made of his life.
Police have said he has a history of arrests on drug charges and other petty offenses. His statement portrays him as a former cocaine addict who started holding up banks to support his habit, and by this year was living in a halfway house and drinking away the money he got from the robberies and occasional work.
On the morning before the $440 bouquet heist in July, "it just hit me. I was going against the grain. I was drunk and a mess. I just did not want that life no more," he wrote.
After a dye pack detonated in the stolen cash, "I said, 'Oh, boy, my life is finished,'" he added.
Pemberton is being held on $250,000 bail.