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Man with history of robbing banks charged in 3 recent holdups

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By Margaret Harding
Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2011

Pittsburgh police on Monday arrested a man with a history of robbing banks and charged him in three new heists.

Dennis Schell, 53, of Allison Park robbed the First Commonwealth Bank on Liberty Avenue in Bloomfield on Thursday and yesterday, police said, and Schell also is charged with robbing the Citizens Bank on Freeport Road on Saturday.

In each robbery, Schell told bank employees he had a gun and demanded cash, police said. In the latest holdup, a security guard followed the robber out of the bank and watched him go into a house on Edmond Street. The guard alerted officers, who surrounded the house. Schell emerged with the bank cash in hand, police said, and officers took him into custody.

City police already had filed an arrest warrant on Friday seeking Schell in the First Commonwealth robbery. According to a criminal complaint, Detective Antonio Ciummo recognized Schell from a surveillance photo as a man associated with past bank robberies. An anonymous tipster called police after Schell's image was released to the media. The tipster recognized Schell and said he has not been taking his medication for a mental disorder, the complaint said.

"He's been diagnosed with at least two serious mental illnesses," said attorney Randall Ricciuti. "If he doesn't take his medications, this is the end result."

Ricciuti represented Schell in 2009 when he was charged with robbing a Lawrenceville bank and attempting to rob another bank in that neighborhood. Schell pleaded guilty and was sentenced to jail and a treatment program through the mental health court. He was on probation for robbing a bank in 2005 when he was arrested for the 2009 thefts.

"He stopped in to see me several months ago and he was still getting treatment," Ricciuti said.

Detectives were searching the home on Edmond Street for additional evidence of the bank robberies.

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