‘Bluto Bandit’ suspect, linked to 4-county bank robbery spree, charged federally

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LOS ANGELES >> A prolific serial bank robbery suspect known as the “Bluto Bandit” who was arrested following an ill-fated heist in South Pasadena Thursday has been charged in federal court, officials said Saturday.
Joseph Adel Noriega, 37, of Rancho Cucamonga is accused of eight bank robberies and attempted bank robberies, as well as numerous other incidents of “casing,” spanning Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Riverside and Orange counties since June 10, according to FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said.
His alleged crime spree came to an end Thursday after he tried, unsuccessfully to rob a South Pasadena bank before being captured minutes later by police in neighboring San Marino, according to South Pasadena police Cpl. Shannon Robledo.
Federal prosecutors filed a criminal complaint Friday charging Noriega with the South Pasadena crime.
“However, the investigation is continuing and Noriega potentially faces additional charges,” FBI officials said in a written statement.
Crime attributed to the serial bandit have been reported in cities including Monrovia, Duarte, unincorporated Pasadena, Ontario, Chino, Norco, Fontana and Beaumont.
The FBI labeled the then-unidentified robber the Bluto Bandit due to a black fake beard he wore during the crimes, reminding investigators of the villain in the Popeye comic strips, Eimiller said.
The Bluto Bandit’s tactic, or modus operandi, was to pass a note demanding cash to bank tellers, officials said.
“In some robberies, the note advised the teller to remain calm; to remove the money within 15 or 30 seconds; or to avoid deploying security devices,” according to the FBI statement. “The suspect generally did not talk during the robberies.”
When San Marino police apprehended Noriega following a brief car chase Thursday, officers found evidence linking him to the crime spree, including bank robbery demand notes, officials said.
He was still wearing his trademark fake beard, Robledo added.
Noriega appeared in federal court in Los Angeles Friday and was remanded to federal custody pending trial, officials said.

Bank surveillance photo courtesy of the FBI.

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Suspected serial bank robber, dubbed ‘Bluto Bandit,’ jailed after failed heist in South Pasadena

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SOUTH PASADENA >> Police arrested a fake-bearded serial bank robbery suspect known as the “Bluto Bandit” Thursday following a failed heist in South Pasadena, which officials alleged was the seventh crime in his multi-county crime spree.
San Marino police chased down and arrested Joseph Adel Noriega, 37, of Rancho Cucamonga following the 12:30 p.m. failed bank robbery in South Pasadena, according to San Marino police Sgt. Timothy Tebbetts.
“The suspect was wanted by the FBI for at least six prior bank robberies and attempted robberies throughout Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties,” he said.
South Pasadena police first responded to Chase bank, 1305 Fair Oaks Ave., after the robber arrived and passed a teller a note demanding cash, South Pasadena police Cpl. Shannon Robledo said.
“For unknown reasons, the suspect fled the bank without receiving money, leaving behind the demand note. A bank employee saw the suspect get into a white four BLUTOFOLO2door sedan and flee Southbound on Fair Oaks Avenue,” Robledo said.
San Marino police spotted the suspect’s vehicle driving in the area of Huntington Drive and Bradbury Road, Tebbetts said. Noriega led police on a chase before eventually stopping at Mission Drive and Hackett Avenue in Rosemead, where he was taken into custody.
The Bluto Bandit earned his moniker, taken from the villain in the Popeye comic strip, due to the false beard he wore during his crimes, FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said.
She described the Bluto Bandit as the “most prolific” serial bank robber currently operating in the Southland.
Previous robberies and incidents of suspect “casing” attributed to the bandit occurred in cities including Monrovia, Duarte, Unincorporated Pasadena, Ontario, Chino, Norco and Fontana
“(Noriega) was still wearing the fake black beard when he was arrested,” Robledo said.
Generally, the robber would target Chase banks branches and pass a note demanding cash to bank tellers, officials said.

The “Bluto Bandit” is pictured in this bank surveillance photo during a June 16, 2015, robbery at a Chase bank branch in Duarte. (Courtesy of the FBI.)

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Man arrested after ‘borrowing’ money from San Dimas bank branch

SAN DIMAS >> Deputies arrested a man Tuesday after a bizarre incident in which he entered a bank branch on roller blades and asked to “borrow” money before being subdued by deputies and diners at a nearby restaurant, officials said.
Scott Baertich, 24, was booked on suspicion of robbery, though the ultimate decision as to what charge or charges he may face will be made by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Tonya Edward said.
The unusual incident began shortly before 11 a.m. at the U.S. Bank, 165 E. Bonita Ave., the lieutenant said.
Baertich rolled into the branch on skates and “asked for theme to let him borrow $20,” Edwards said.
A clerk handed the man a $20 out of fear and he left the bank, she said. Deputies responding to reports of a bank robbery suspect on roller blades spotted a pair of skates sitting in front of nearby Roady’s Restaurant, 160 W. Bonita Ave., Edwards said.
Deputies — aided by customers of the restaurant, which included an off-duty deputy and a retired deputy, wrestled Baertich into custody, she said. Deputies used a Taser to subdue the man. No significant injuries were reported.
It was uncertain with prosectors would file a robbery charge against Baertich, as he made no direct threat or demand while inside the bank, Edwards said. He was being held in lieu of $100,000 bail pending a scheduled appearance Thursday in Pomona Superior Court, records show.

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FBI: ‘AK-47 Bandit’ strikes again, this time in Iowa

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IOWA >> A heavily-armed serial bank robber known as the “AK-47 Bandit,” who shot and wounded a Chino police officer during a bank robbery three years ago at the outset of a nationwide crime spree, struck again Tuesday in Iowa, according to the FBI.
The bandit showed up at the Heartland Community Credit Union in Mason City, Iowa, Tuesday morning, armed with his usual AK-47-style rifle fitted with a large-capacity drum magazine, FBI officials said in a written statement.
EP-140909961“ Based on witness descriptions, surveillance photos and other indicators, agents and detectives jointly investigating this case in multiple jurisdictions (and) states believe the Mason City suspect is the same individual linked to the violent series of bank robberies attributed to the ‘AK-47 Bandit,’ which brings the total number of linked robberies to seven,” FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said.
The spree of bank heists began on Feb. 29, 2012, when the bandit robbed the California Bank and Trust, 5455 Riverside Drive, and shot a Chino police officer while making his getaway.
Robberies and attempted robberies throughout California and the nation have since been linked to the bank robbery.
He’s believed to be responsible for crimes in Chino, Vacaville, Sacramento, Washington, Idaho, Nebraska, and now Iowa, according to the FBI.
$100,000 in reward money has been offered for information leading to the capture and conviction of the AK-47 bandit. The FBI has offered $75,000 in reward money, Eimileer said, while other parties have added an additional $25,000.
Officials have described the robber as a white in his 20s to 40s, 5 feet 9 inches to 6 feet tall, of medium build, woith possibly blue eyes. He generally wears a black ski mask and gloves and carries the assault rifle which gave him his moniker.
Anyone with information can reach the FBI in Los Angeles at 310-477-6565.

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‘Bluto Bandit’ sought for bank robberies in L.A., San Bernardino counties

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The FBI is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of a fake beard-clad serial bank robber dubbed “The Bluto Bandit” who has robbed or been spotted at six banks throughout Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties over the past week.
The bandit has robbed Chase bank branches in Pasadena, Duarte and Ontario, and has been seen “casing” other branches in Monrovia, Chino and Fontana, according to FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller.
In each case, the bandit wore a thick, black, curly fake beard, prompting investigators to nickname him the Bluto Bandit, inspired by the bearded villain in the Bluto“Popeye” comic strip, Eimiller said.
He robbed a Chase bank at 3870 Foothill Boulevard in an unincorporated county area near Pasadena about 2:35 p.m. Tuesday, then robbed another Chase bank at 1000 Huntington Drive in Duarte about half an hour later, Eimiller said. The robber was also seen casing a Monrovia bank in between the two robbers, as well as a Fontana bank later in the afternoon.
In the Pasadena and Monrovia heists, the robber quietly approached tellers and handed over notes demanding cash, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Loy McBride said.
“He didn’t really even speak,” the lieutenant said.
But the serial bandit’s crime spree began June 10, when he robbed a Chase bank 0619_NWS_SGT-L-BLUTO2cropat 1070 N. Mountain Avenue in Ontario, according to the FBI. He was spotted casing a Chino Chase bank two days later.
Investigators described the robber as a Latino man, 28 to 30 years old, about 5 feet 9 inches tall and 195 pounds. In all of the crimes, he wore his fake beard and a blue, long-sleeve Pendleton-style shirt.
He’s been spotted getting into a white, newer-model Volkswagen Jetta with tinted windows and final three license plate digits of “665.”
No weapon has been seen during the crimes.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the FBI Los Angeles Office at 310-477-6565.

PHOTOS from robberies in Duarte (above) and unincorporated Pasadena (below) courtesy of the FBI.

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Would-be bank robber flees empty-handed in South Pasadena

SOUTH PASADENA >> A man fled without any money after trying to rob a South Pasadena bank branch Wednesday afternoon, police said.
PSN-L-BANKThe failed robbery took place about 4:30 p.m. at Chase, 1305 Fair Oaks Avenue, South Pasadena police Sgt. Jim Valencia said.
A would-be robber handed a teller a page-long demand note and briefly stood at the teller’s window, but left without receiving any cash, the sergeant said. He was last seen exiting a west-facing door.
Officers searched the area but did not find the suspect, Valencia said.
The FBI, which investigates bank robberies, was notified of the incident, he added.

PHOTO courtesy of the South Pasadena Police Department

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Two sought in San Dimas bank robbery

SAN DIMAS >> Deputies are hunting for two men who robbed a Chase bank branch Friday afternoon, authorities said.
The crime took place about 5:30 p.m. at the bank, 1001 Arrow Highway, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Tonya Edwards said.
One robber entered the bank and handed a teller a note demanding cash as the second robber acted as a lookout, the lieutenant said.
After obtaining cash, both robbers were last seen fleeing from the bank on foot, she added. No injuries were reported.

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Baldwin Park man accused of Pasadena attempted bank robbery

PASADENA >> Police jailed a man Baldwin Park man Tuesday after he abandoned an attempted bank robbery in Pasadena and fled empty-handed, authorities said.
John Raymond Celaya, 55, was arrested in connection with the alleged failed heist and was being held in lieu of $50,000 bail pending his initial court appearance, according to Pasadena police officials and Los Angeles County booking records.
The crime took place just after 5:30 p.m. at a Chase branch at Colorado Boulevard and Arroyo Parkway, Pasadena police Lt. Kelly Evans said.
Celaya handed a teller a note demanding cash and stating that he had a gun, Evans said. But he apparently became nervous and fled from the bank without receiving any money.
Officers found Celaya nearby at Central Park and arrested him once he was identified via witnesses and surveillance footage as the suspect.

– Stephanie Baer and Brian Day

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Pico Rivera bank branch robbed


PICO RIVERA >> A man fled with cash after robbing a Whittier Boulevard bank branch Wednesday afternoon, authorities said.
The bank robbery occurred about 1 p.m. at the Bank of the West, at Whittier and Rosemead boulevards, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. Scott Chapman said.
A man handed a teller a note demanding money before fleeing with an unknown amount, the sergeant said.
Deputies described the robber as a Latino man of about 40 years old, about 5 feet 10 inches tall and of medium build. He had a salt and pepper mustache and a tattoo on his left neck and shoulder area. He wore a black and blue Yankees cap, sunglasses, a white T-shirt and blue jeans. He was last seen on Rosemead Boulevard on foot.

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Masked gunman rob Pasadena bank

PASADENA >> Two masked, armed men robbed a Pasadena bank branch Friday morning, police said.
The heist occurred about 11 a.m. at OneUnited Bank, 1335 North Lake Avenue, Pasadena police Lt. John Mercado said.
“Two male blacks entered the bank wearing ski masks and armed with handguns. They demanded money from the tellers,” the lieutenant said.
After obtaining an unknown amount of cash, the robbers ran from the bank and got into a getaway car with a driver waiting at the wheel, Mercado said. The small, older two-door sedan was last seen driving south on Lake Avenue.
No injuries were reported, Mercado said.
Police described both gunman was black, in their mid-20s, about 6 feet tall, and of thin build. Both wore black ski masks and black gloves. One wore a white hooded sweatshirt and dark-colored pants, while the other wore a black hooded sweatshirt and light-colored pants.
No description of the getaway car was available.

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