In this episode of FBI Retired Case File Review, retired agents Walter Lamar and Stephen Chenoweth review how a new emergency wiretap authorization for pay phones aided in the nationwide manhunt and capture of FBI Top Ten Most Wanted fugitives Terry Lee Conner and Joseph William Dougherty. Conner and Dougherty met in prison and in the 1980s began working together in one of the most professional bank robbery operations in U.S. history. They would identify the bank manager and where he lived, hold him hostage the night before, and forcibly escort him to the bank where they would empty the vault. They were known as the “sleepover bank robbers.” Their well-planned and methodical robberies netted them more than $1 million and, after their daring escape from custody, a place on the FBI and the U.S. Marshals’ top wanted fugitives lists.
Special Agent (Former)
1980 – 1999
“This had never been done before. Because of that order in 1985, the FBI now had the ability to get emergency authorization to tap pay phones.”—Former Agent Walter Lamar
Former agent Walter Lamar served in the FBI for 18 years. He was assigned to the in San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle and Oklahoma City Divisions, where he used traditional and sophisticated techniques to conduct, participate, and direct investigations involving violent crimes, fugitives, illegal narcotics, criminal conspiracies, organized crime, public corruption and domestic terrorism. Twice during his Bureau career, Walter was presented the FBI Shield of Bravery for actions taken in the immediate aftermath of the Oklahoma City Federal building bombing and during a running gun battle with an armed felon.
An enrolled member of the Blackfeet Nation of Montana and a descendent of the Wichita Tribe of Oklahoma, provides law enforcement and security consulting services to tribal governments, Walt left the FBI two years before retirement to accept an appointment as the Deputy Director of the BIA Office of Law Enforcement Services. In response to the attacks of 911, the Department of the Interior named him Senior Advisor to the Director, Department of Interior – Office of Law Enforcement and Security, where Walter served to ensure protection of the Nation’s dams, monuments and icons.
Walter retired from Federal service in 2005 and founded Lamar Associates, a company focused on the safety and security of Indian Country. In 2015 Walter served as a Senior Advisor to the Director Pentagon Force Protection Agency, and in that capacity worked with agency managers to ensure protection of the Pentagon.
Walter continues to manage Lamar Associates, a Washington DC based professional services firm working to assist Indian Country, prepare for tomorrow while protecting today.
Special Agent (Retired)
February 1967 – September 1995
“I had one guy tell me bank robbery was the most addictive drug, because once you did it and got away with it, you wanted to do it again.”—Retired Agent Steve Chenoweth
Retired agent Stephen Chenoweth served in the FBI for nearly 29 years. For the majority of his career, Steve was in the Phoenix Division working a variety of investigative and management assignments in major American cities addressing kidnappings, extortion, bank robberies, major fugitive apprehensions and other violent crime investigations. From 1986 until 1995, Steve was the Supervisory Special Agent in charge of the Violent Crimes Program in the Phoenix, Arizona FBI Office.
During his Bureau career, Steve investigated and/or supervised hundreds of bank robbery matters, kidnappings and fugitive apprehensions. During the mid-1980s, he led the nationwide investigation and manhunt for several FBI Top Ten Fugitives, including Terry Lee Conner & Joseph William Dougherty the two most prolific bank robbers of the decade. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, he lead the FBI’s nationwide efforts to apprehend another Top Ten Fugitive, Patrick Michael Mitchell – leader of the infamous “Stopwatch Gang” who had stolen millions of dollars in a series of bank robberies in both Canada & the United States over a multi-year period. Under Steve’s leadership, all of these major fugitives were successfully located and apprehended.
As the supervisor for the FBI’s Phoenix violent crime suppression and major fugitive apprehension operations, he participated in or commanded numerous significant and complex tactical operations, many of them joint task force operations with local police agencies. He has also developed and implemented dozens of tactical response plans for a variety of crisis management incidents to include kidnappings and extortion.
After his retirement from the FBI, Steve operated his own investigative firm in Arizona, Steve has consulted with major corporations on a variety of issues, was selected as the security director of a major California banking institution, successfully conducted major fraud and other loss related investigations for large corporate entities in conjunction with and for a major accounting firm and assisted the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in conducting nationwide compliance audits with respect to the sexual abuse issue. He is now fully retired and enjoying spending time with his family.
The following are links to information about the FBI Top Ten Most Wanted Program and articles and videos about fugitives, Joseph Dougherty and Terry Conner, the sleepover bank robbers:
FBI Website – Ten Most Wanted Fugitives FAQ
FBI Files – 12/10/2002: Home Invaders
The Oklahoman – 6/30/1985: Escapees “Professional’ Bank Robbers
AP News – 9/7/1985: FBI Queries Fugitives’ Friend About Bank Abduction And Robbery
Chicago Tribune – 12/10/1986: Escapee on FBI ‘Wanted’ List Nabbed
UPI Archives – 12/18/1986: A bank robber on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted
UPI – 7/11/1987: A bank robber wanted in five states was convicted…
The Oklahoman- 7/16,/1987: Pair Given 124-Year Sentences for Robbery
To learn more about how the FBI works with our law enforcement partners to solve bank and armored car robberies, listen or re-listen to this fascinating case reviews: