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Man Who Stole $651,000 Wants to Surrender in L.A., Letter Says : Crime: He claims to have gambled away the money. Letter and photo sent to Delaware paper are believed to be authentic.

January 09, 1990|ERIC MALNIC | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A man on the run for two years after allegedly robbing an armored car in Philadelphia of $651,000 in cash says he has gambled the money away and wants to surrender in Los Angeles, according to a letter he is believed to have written.

"I stole the money because I thought I could quadruple it through gambling--and then I would give half to the company I stole it from," said the letter, apparently penned by Edward Leigh Hunt Jr., who was a guard on the armored car.

"I used my gambling system, but I lost it all," the letter, postmarked in Inglewood, continued. "I will turn myself in to the police on Jan. 20, 1990, at noon at the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce. . . . I'm saying, 'Yes . . . I did it . . . I screwed up . . . I'm sorry.' "

Editors at the Wilmington News Journal in Wilmington, Del.--the newspaper that received the letter dated Dec. 20, 1989--said Monday that people familiar with Hunt identified the handwriting as his.

The 26-year-old fugitive's father, Edward Leigh Hunt Sr., a former Delaware prosecutor, said a photograph enclosed with the letter that shows an athletic-looking young man climbing out of a swimming pool is "definitely" a picture of his son.

"As far as we're concerned at this point, they both look valid--the letter and the photo," said FBI Agent John Kundts, a spokesman for the bureau's office in Philadelphia.

FBI officials in Los Angeles declined to comment on the case, other than to say that "we're still looking for him."

Reports indicate that the younger Hunt--a Wilmington resident described by his father as a "near-genius" with an undergraduate degree in psychology--arrived in the Los Angeles area a few days after the robbery.

His whereabouts since then have remained a mystery, although he alluded in his letter to "an incredible adventure . . . in three countries."

Officials at the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce said Monday that they had "no idea" why the fugitive would want to surrender at their office.

"And the 20th is a Saturday," said Susan Pasternak, a spokeswoman for the organization. "We're normally closed on Saturdays."

But, as the letter noted, Jan. 20 is the second anniversary of the robbery.

On Jan. 20, 1988, Hunt was working as a guard for Brooks Armored Car Co. in Philadelphia, according to the FBI. Working with him on a truck that day were another guard, Martin Moran, and a driver, Robert Twaddle.

Police say that, when the truck stopped at the main office of a downtown bank, Hunt remained in the vehicle while the other two went inside. When Moran and Twaddle returned about half an hour later, Hunt and two bulky canvas bags--one containing about $250,000, the other about $400,000, all of it in used bills--were missing.

Millions of dollars were left behind, along with Hunt's uniform jacket, his unloaded .38-caliber revolver and a ski mask.

Hunt's father, who served as a deputy attorney general in Delaware from 1973 to 1975, said at the time that he thought his son was innocent of wrongdoing, "but if he did do it, it will be very difficult to catch him because there's no way he'll make the usual mistakes that get most people caught. . . .

"He's brilliant, and if he was going to rob an armored car, he'd do a good job of it," his father said. "He would have thought out every possible angle."

Less than a week after the robbery, Dave Graham, a Delaware resident who is a longtime friend of Edward Hunt Jr., called the FBI to report that he had just received a phone call from the fugitive. Graham said the young man told him he was calling from Los Angeles.

The fugitive's father said Graham told him his son "sounded very apprehensive, like he was on a high, but from nervousness, not as if he were intoxicated."

" . . . The content of the call was very shallow," the elder Hunt said. "My son made a comment to Dave: 'Have you heard about it, or did you read about it in the newspapers?' Really, not much of any substance was said."

Two days later, on Jan. 29, 1988, a federal arrest warrant was issued for Edward Hunt Jr. Three months after that, on April 26, 1988, the young man was indicted by a federal grand jury.

For the next 20 months, nothing more was heard from the fugitive. Then, about two weeks ago, the newspaper in Wilmington received the letter.

"I have a good story for your newspaper," the letter began. "I am one of the most wanted criminals in the United States. On Jan. 20, 1988, I stole $651,000 from an armored truck in Philadelphia. For this crime I was featured twice on the national TV show, 'America's Most Wanted.' "

Saying that he wanted to surrender in Los Angeles, the writer stressed that "my record was clean until that day--not even a traffic ticket. . . .

"My father is a lawyer, my mother a first-grade teacher," the letter said. "We are a close family and haven't seen each other since the crime. . . . My girlfriend, Ellie, and I are in love. I told her the loot was an inheritance, so she doesn't know the truth. . . .

"I am a strong believer in nonviolence; when I took the loot there was nobody around," the writer said. "I taught myself Spanish, and I will be a private Spanish teacher after jail. So I have a bright future. . . .

"I'm sorry about the crime and I beg forgiveness. . . ."

LETTER FROM A FUGITIVE?

At right is a picture of Edward Leigh Hunt Jr., an armored-truck guard sought since January, 1988, when he and two bags of cash totaling $651,000 disappeared from his truck in Philadelphia. Below is portion of letter received by a newspaper in Wilmington, Del.

The writer, believed to be Hunt, says he will surrender to police in L.A.

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