Deputies search for brazen, tattooed bank robber
By MARY BROWNFIELD
Published: December 19, 2008
A COLORFUL tattoo is one of the distinctive marks that might lead to the capture of the man who held Citibank tellers at gunpoint late Monday afternoon and escaped with thousands of dollars, according to Monterey County Sheriff’s Cmdr. Mike Richards.
The lone suspect was wearing a black ski mask, sunglasses and possibly a hat when he walked through the front door of the bank on Carmel Rancho Boulevard at 4 p.m. Dec. 15.
“He said, ‘Everyone, this is a robbery. Give me your money,’” Richards said. Armed with a dark-colored semiautomatic handgun, the robber “put the manager on the floor with his hands up, and focused on the two tellers, who handed him money.” No customers were in the building, and no one was hurt.
Without touching anything in the bank, he shoved the cash into a small dark bag he brought with him, left through the door he had entered and headed around the back of the building to the parking lot. Within 30 seconds of his departure, a teller dialed 911.
Witnesses described the robber as being about 5-feet-11-inches tall, of medium build, and in his 40s or 50s.
“He did have a colorful tattoo on his left arm above the wrist,” said Richards, who hopes someone will recognize that unusual feature and tip off police. “Another witness described it as being red,” but unfortunately, no one could say what the tattoo depicts.
The bank robbery was the third in three weeks in Monterey County, and investigators suspect they might be related, according to Richards.
On Nov. 26, a man of similar age, skin color and build walked into Washington Mutual Bank on Berwick Drive near Mid Valley Center and robbed it with a dark-colored semiautomatic handgun, the sheriff’s office reported. He wore a fake beard instead of a mask, and he didn’t use the same words in declaring his intentions, but they were similar.
And on Dec. 3, a robber struck a Comerica Bank in Prunedale. This crime varied in that the suspect herded everyone into the vault, but it was similar in that he used a black semiautomatic handgun and raided the cash drawers. He took “a large sum” of money, according to the deputy’s report.
“It’s interesting that we’ve had three of them now in a period of about three weeks,” Richards said. “I don’t know if it’s because it’s Christmas or because of the economy.”
A federal case
Bank robbery is a federal crime, and the FBI used to investigate every incident in Monterey County, but the allocation of more resources for homeland security and antiterrorism efforts has diminished its role in looking into such crimes, according to Richards.
“That’s not too much of a concern for us, because we have a very fine team of detectives who will probably catch this guy,” he said.
In the meantime, the crimes have local bankers worried, and some businesses are taking extra precautionary steps, including hiring guards and locking their doors at certain times of the day.