It’s not certain when John Thomas Rutledge’s life allegedly went sideways, but one might argue that the exclamation point was his Oct. 30 arrest for bank robbery.
Rutledge, 55, lives in Frisco and admitted to robbing six banks — three in the Preston Hollow and Park Cities areas. The FBI says he may have committed as many as seven in a three-month period.
His biography on his former employer’s website, the commercial real estate firm Retail Solutions, leaves no hint of anything other than an upstanding citizen. Rutledge was a senior vice president at the firm, and before that had a 15-year tenure at Venture Commercial, as well as stints at The Weitzman Group and Henry S. Miller.
The bio also mentioned that he was a “proud member & participant of the Prestonwood Baptist Church & the Prestonwood Sports Organization.”
His real estate license, according to the Texas Real Estate Commission, is inactive but doesn’t expire until July 31, 2020.
A Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing on June 4 revealed more, though — $425,308 in debt (including a quarter of a million to the North Texas Tollway Authority), and a previous bankruptcy filing in April 2018.
Among his creditors was his former employer as well. When asked for comment, company president and founder David Simmonds said Rutledge was “no longer affiliated” with the company, and that he would not comment on why his firm was listed as a creditor.
“If you go to our web site, ‘Our Team,’ he won’t be on there. That is a ghost image,” Simmonds added.
The criminal complaint outlines Rutledge’s alleged MO for three of the robberies he’s charged with — Oakwood Bank at Preston Center on Sept. 30, Legacy Bank at Preston and Royal on Oct. 17, and Bank of America at Preston Center on Oct. 30.
The complaint alleges that Rutledge approached Oakwood Bank wearing a baseball cap and fake beard, carrying a briefcase and wearing a latex glove on one hand and a cloth or leather glove on the other.
Because of his use of disguises like fake noses and beards, FBI spokeswoman Melissa Urbina said the department had given him the unofficial nickname of “Mr. Potato Head.”
“The suspect handed the banker a brown plastic bag and told him something similar to ‘Fill it up. You know what to do,’” documents said. When handed the bag with a little more than $12,000 inside, Rutledge reportedly thanked the teller and then left on foot to a parking garage.
Security footage from the bank and parking garage pinpointed a black Cadillac Escalade and a possibly blurred license plate that didn’t match any Cadillac.
However, earlier that day, a Cadillac law enforcement said was similar to the one in the post-robbery video was parked in the exact same parking spot, and they were able to view a “heavier-set white male” leave the vehicle, enter the building, and return to the vehicle.
The registration on that vehicle showed it belonged to Rutledge’s wife, Kelly. Further investigation linked Rutledge to the car and the offense, the complaint read, and they were able to get a warrant to place a tracker on the car.
Dallas police were tracking Rutledge and had him under surveillance when he robbed the Preston Center Bank of America on Oct. 17, the complaint said, and officers were able to see him park his car and enter the bank, and followed him until he stopped, where they saw him attempting to change out his license plate and arrested him.
At the police station, Rutledge admitted to robbing the bank that day, as well as the Oakwood Bank. About $5,700 was taken in the Oct. 30 robbery, and a search of his car revealed a black BB gun, sunglasses, a fake beard, a baseball cap, and another license plate.
“The defendant’s string of robberies was remarkable with respect to the elaborate degree of deception employed,” Rutledge’s detention order reads. “The defendant disguised his appearance with a beard and changed the license plates on his get-away vehicle to avoid detection.”
“The defendant effectively hid his conduct from his wife and close friends, who were shocked to learn the defendant apparently led a double life as a serial bank robber.”
Rutledge has been held in the Kaufman County jail as a federal prisoner since Nov. 1. He was indicted on three counts of bank robbery on Nov. 20.