Robbery, Shmobbery: You Still Need Two Forms Of ID

Retail CIOs hoping to impress upon their people the importance of authentication procedures can take some comfort from a strange bank interaction in Houston, where some people—bank employees and their bank-robber customers included—have just been trained too well.

Nathan Wayne Pugh was sentenced on March 15 to 102 months in prison for an attempted bank robbery in July 2010, when he entered a Dallas Wells Fargo branch at lunchtime, put a fast-food bag on the counter and handed a teller a threatening note demanding cash. He said he had explosives. The recently hired teller told the thief she needed to see identification before giving him money. He showed her his debit card and demanded $2,000. For that much, the teller told him, she would need to see a second ID. The bank robber complied.

Is this what we've come to? New bank employees who are drilled so thoroughly in standard procedure that when they're handed a life-threatening note they still ask to see ID before pushing the silent alarm? And career criminals who, even when robbing a bank, are so accustomed to ID checks that they expect—and even comply—with that ID request? You have to wonder what would have happened if Pugh had tried robbing a Safeway. By the time he'd finished filling out the application for a Club Card, he'd be halfway to jail.

Instead, after Pugh dug out a state-issued ID card, the teller took it, pushed the silent alarm, and told him that she only had $900 in her cash drawer. She then offered to go to the back of the bank to get more money. Pugh took the $900, stuffed the money in his shirt pocket, retrieved his ID, debit card and the fast-food bag (which, according to Pugh's note, contained a "bom") and turned to leave.

That's when he saw uniformed police outside the bank's entrance. Apparently panicking, Pugh grabbed another bank customer in the lobby—a woman carrying a baby—and tried to put her in a choke-hold to use them both as a hostage. But this really wasn't Pugh's day. The woman wrestled Pugh to the floor and police quickly arrested him.

Pugh, who was already on parole, will serve his eight-and-a-half-year sentence once he's finished his 25-year stretch for two previous robberies. One irony of this case is that police and FBI never needed to use the two legitimate forms of ID Pugh gave the bank teller to identify him, but it was still courteous of him to offer them.