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O.C. Man, 77, Calls Robbery 'Aberration'

September 19, 1997|GEOFF BOUCHER and JEFF KASS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

HUNTINGTON BEACH — Ray Lawrence Boeger, a 77-year-old bank robbery suspect, told police that his failing business and his wife's medical problems caused him to pick up a gun this week after a lifetime of obeying the law and helping the community.

The Westminster man was released Thursday on an unsecured $25,000 bond by a federal magistrate who acknowledged Boeger's community service as a founder of Golden West College and a member of a Seal Beach citizens commission.

Those accomplishments stand in stark contrast to the charge Boeger now faces--that Wednesday afternoon he donned a fake beard, tucked a semi-automatic gun into his waistband and held up the World Savings & Loan in Huntington Beach.

"Mind-boggling," is the how one of Boeger's relatives described the alleged crime. "It was an intense shock."

Boeger was arrested at his home Wednesday about two hours after witnesses jotted down his license plate number as he slowly drove away from the World Savings & Loan at 6902 Warner Ave., according to Lt. Dan Johnson.

Police said Boeger told them his business woes and his wife's medical problems drove him to the robbery. But at his home Thursday night, Boeger said the act was an "aberration" borne of a few too many pints of ale at lunchtime.

"It was me, but it wasn't me," he said. "It was an aberration."

Boeger said he had gone to lunch Wednesday with some fellow businessmen, and that they had started sampling a new English ale. After two or three pints each, Boeger said, he and his companions began kidding around about finances.

"I said, 'Well, I'm short this week. I've got to go out and make some money.' I had a little too much."

The suspect who entered the bank at 1:45 p.m. was described by tellers as a frail, polite senior citizen who apologetically asked for $2,500, Johnson said.

"When he asked for the money, the teller asked him if he had an account, and he said, 'No, but I have this gun,' " said Johnson, who described the crime as a "sad, half-hearted" robbery.

The gunman, who wore a fake mustache and goatee, thanked the teller before slowly leaving the bank with a bag of cash. Witnesses said that as he drove away in his 1980 Cadillac, explosive dye packs secreted in the stolen money burst, coating the car's interior with the bright, red dye, Johnson said.

Police were waiting for Boeger at his Westminster home when he arrived, and they seized the stolen money and an unloaded semi-automatic handgun in the car, along with ammunition nearby, according to Johnson and court documents.

Boeger stressed that the gun was unloaded, and that he never pointed it at the teller.

Johnson said that Boeger stopped on the way home for a few more drinks, "probably because the robbery didn't go well. When we questioned him, he said he needed money because his wife had medical bills and his import-export business was struggling."

A bartender at the My Place lounge in Huntington Beach said the frail, unshaven Boeger came in about 2 p.m., drank two draft beers and mused aloud about starting up a business making electric golf carts. He paid for his drinks with small bills pulled from a roll held together by a paper clip, bartender Darren Kerr said.

"He seemed pretty pleasant and I didn't notice if he had any dye on him, and I didn't see any [large amount of] money," Kerr said Thursday. "When I heard what happened--well, it's just really sad that he had to do that."

On Thursday, Boeger was dressed in slacks and a white, short sleeve button down shirt as he sat on a courtroom bench normally reserved for members of the public. He did not enter a plea, but briefly answered questions from U.S. Magistrate Elgin Edwards indicating that he understood the details of his release.

Among other things, Boeger was asked to surrender his passport, and a gun collection belonging to his son. Court documents submitted by the defense described Boeger as being among the founders of the Seal Beach Yacht Club and Golden West College in Huntington Beach, and state that he once served as a member of the Seal Beach Police Commission.

However, Seal Beach City Clerk Joanne Yeo said the city has never had a police commission. It is possible Boeger served as a planning commissioner or on some other citizen panel, but she said a records check Thursday could not confirm his service to the community.

Boeger's role with the yacht club and college could not be confirmed or challenged late Thursday afternoon by officials with either entity.

"That doesn't call it into question, it's just that he has been in Orange County since 1948 and that's a long time," said H. Dean Steward, Boeger's deputy federal public defender.

The most recent of those 48 years have been trying times for Boeger, Steward said. Boeger lost his home of four decades in Seal Beach to foreclosure about three years ago, and his financial problems "have spiraled since then," Steward said.

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