Jeanne Trantel thought she had the perfect life, but looking back she wished she had questioned it more. She thinks there was also a part of her “that just didn’t want to know what was happening.” Her husband Stephen Trantel was a hard worker but he had a criminal secret.
Three years before they married, Jeanne met Stephen at a Long Island restaurant where he was bartending. She immediately knew that she wanted a future with him.
Jeanne’s childhood friend Veronica Finnegan thought Stephen was a charming and friendly guy.
When Jeanne and Stephen got married, he really wanted Jeanne to emulate his mother, who was a stay-at-home mom. Jeanne didn’t dream of this kind of life for herself, but she lived it for Stephen because she wanted to be a “pleasing wife.”
Stephen was a workaholic who was driven to be wealthy. Part of Stephen’s dream was to also make sure he and Jeanne upheld this image. He always wanted her to wear nice dresses with matching bags.
Jeanne says Stephen was a great dad to their children Stephen and Ryan, who he was devoted to.
They moved to Rockville Centre, an affluent small, to raise their family as Stephen’s Wall Street career was taking off. Jeanne never really knew much about their finances, but she felt happy and in love.
Soon enough, she learned a shocking truth about their lives and everything crumbled.
On September 11, 2001, Stephen’s car wouldn’t start so he took a cab to the train station in order to get to work. Of course, this was the day terrorist planes crashed into the World Trade Center, which was three blocks from where Stephen worked.
Jeanne panicked and called Stephen to see if he was ok, but he did not answer so she assumed the worst. He didn’t contact Jeanne until 8 p.m. Stephen told her that he was ok, but that he had missed his train because the cab was late. Jeanne was relieved to learn that he was alive.
Not everyone was so lucky. Jeanne and Stephen lost many of their friends that day. Stephen’s work was closed down for several weeks because of the tragedy, and eventually, he lost his job as a stock trader.
Jeanne tried to be positive during this scary financial time. One day she heard a call from a mortgage company saying that they were two months behind in their payments. Stephen would try to earn money by trading their own money on the stock market, which is kind of like gambling. Some days he would make gains, but other days he would have losses that put him in a sour mood.
Stephen became very nervous and on edge. He became very quiet and withdrawn from his family. He had gone through a lot with 9/11, the loss of his friends, and the loss of his job, but he wouldn’t open up. Jeanne and Stephen began to drift apart. The next year, in August 2002, Stephen lost his mother.
Stephen became very angry after his mother passed away. He became very jittery and hyper. One day he ran out of the room after his wife said hello to him.
In October 2003, Jeanne got the old Stephen back for their anniversary. He took her to Manhattan to have dinner and it was like old times again. Jeanne noticed that Stephen paid for everything in cash. Jeanne didn’t have suspicions about this behavior at the time, but now it was a huge clue to what was really going on.
After their fun time in the city, Stephen’s mood changed back to irritable and dark. Jeanne started to suspect that he was cheating on her. During this time, Jeanne also noticed that she was being followed by a black car.
On Thanksgiving, November 27, 2003, Stephen paced on the front lawn while talking to someone. When asked, Stephen said he was on the phone with family or friends, but Jeanne felt like that was a lie. Her parents were worried about Stephen because of this strange behavior.
The next day, November 28, 2003, Stephen said he was going fishing with his uncle. Later he called and said that they had caught a lot of fish and it had been an amazing day. However, he wasn’t home hours after he said he’d be home. Jeanne felt like she did she couldn’t contact him on 9/11.
The next phone call changed her life forever. Police were on the other line and told her that Stephen was under arrest for a string of bank robberies. Stephen told her he was innocent, and she believed it at first. She knew he had been acting strangely, but she just couldn’t accept that it was because he was robbing banks.
When Jeanne saw him at the courthouse Stephen looked incredibly sick and distraught. His bail was $500,000, which they couldn’t afford.
Jeanne went to visit Stephen in jail during a snowstorm. She wanted him to tell her the truth, but he still lied to her. Eventually, his dad posted bail.
Jeanne’s dad was a prosecutor, and he spoke to police about the case. He broke it to Jeanne that there was a lot of evidence against him. When he came home on bail, Jeanne finally got Stephen to confess to her. He explained that he had lost all of their money on the exchange. He was desperate, so he decided to deal with his financial situation by robbing banks.
Jeanne felt like there were two of her husband: a good one, and a bad one. She felt like Stephen left her when he chose to rob banks, so she divorced him.
How Stephen robbed banks
Stephen had disguised himself in sunglasses, a hat, latex gloves, and a jumpsuit over his clothes. He would strike during quiet times when no one else was in the bank.
He would hand the bank teller a note that said: “I have a gun, give me the money.” He put the money in a brown paper bag and walk out of the bank without a fingerprint or any identifying evidence. He always knew the layouts of the banks and where the cameras were.
He would pick a bank with a coffee shop nearby. He would buy a cup of coffee and leave his cup of coffee on a mailbox or ledge. He used his kid’s school backpack to carry his disguise. He would put on the disguise a few blocks away, walk to the bank, get the money. Then, he would find a corner, take off his disguise, and walk back to where he left his coffee and pick it back up. His reasoning for the coffee was that he thought that no one would think a guy walking down the street enjoying a cup of coffee had just robbed a bank.
How was he caught?
In July through November of 2003, detectives noticed an increase of bank robberies on Long Island and a decrease in the time between each bank. Police caught their break when Stephen left behind a stick-up note, which had a fingerprint on it. They ran it through their database and got a hit on Stephen Trantel’s DUI from 1984.
Detectives began surveillance after they learned his name, which is why Jeanne thought she was being followed.
On March 22, 2004, Stephen Trantel took a plea deal to three robberies in the first degree. He received a nine-year prison sentence.
In 2010, Leanne published a book about her experience titled Disguised Blessings (affiliate link.)