The sister of a recent Northern California homicide victim accused of robbing or attempting to rob eight banks — including ones in Arcadia, Temple City and Baldwin Park — was in federal custody Thursday awaiting trial, officials said.
Obiomachuckuka Njokanma, 36, of Michigan, was indicted Tuesday on eight counts of bank robbery in connection with the alleged spree, which took place between Dec. 28 and Jan. 12, according to FBI officials and court documents.
Officials said Njokanma also admitted being responsible for a Dec. 27 Modesto bank robbery for which she has not yet been charged.
Her alleged San Gabriel Valley crimes include a Jan. 4 robbery at the Foothill Federal Credit Union, 30 S. First Ave. in Arcadia; a failed Jan. 10 robbery at a Wells Fargo, 11460 Merced Ave. in Baldwin Park; and a Jan. 10 robbery at a Bank of the West, 9934 E. Las Tunas Drive in Temple City.
She was arrested Jan. 14 by by Los Angeles police, FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said.
According to the indictment, “Njokanma repeatedly apologized for committing the bank robberies. She explained that her sister was recently discovered murdered in Modesto, California. She admitted that the very first bank she robbed was in Modesto.”
A search of public records shows that Njokanma is a relative of Eldoris Graham, 28, of Modesto, who was found slain in her hometown Jan. 11.
Graham’s boyfriend, 36-year-old Anthony Coxum, was not cooperating with investigators and gave inconsistent statements to detectives, but was not initially arrested in connection with the killing, Modesto police officials said in a written statement.
Coxum was being held on suspicion of unrelated probation violations in Fayetteville, North Carolina, as the investigation continued, Modesto police added. He was driving Graham’s car when arrested.
Graham was reported missing by her mother on Dec. 15, and her body was found Jan. 11, officials said.
FBI investigators had been referring to the serial robber as the “60 Second Bandit” due to statements she made during the robberies indicating she wanted to get the money and be gone within 60 seconds, Eimiller said. But officials had not yet gone public with the moniker.
During the robberies, Njokanma handed tellers notes threatening to shoot them or others in the bank if they didn’t quickly hand over large-denomination bills, according to court documents. She would often wear a baseball cap or a wig.
In all, the eight robberies Njokanma is charged with allegedly netted her $20,001.
In addition to the three San Gabriel Valley crimes, robberies linked to Njokanma also include a Dec. 28 robbery at the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists-Screen Actors Guild Credit Union in Burbank; a Dec. 31 heist at a U.S. Bank in Bell; a failed Jan. 8 robbery at a Wells Fargo branch at 3800 Wilshire Blvd. in Los Angeles; a Jan. 9 robbery at the First Financial Credit Union, 5115 Wilshire Ave. in Los Angeles; and a Jan. 12 robbery at a Citibank, 270 N. Vermont Ave. in Los Angeles.
BANK SURVEILLANCE PHOTOS of Baldwin Park attempted robbery (above) and Temple City robbery (below) courtesy of the FBI.
The FBI has released bank surveillance photos from a Monday robbery at a Chase branch on Huntintgon Drive.
ARCADIA — Police are seeking a mustachioed bandit who robbed a bank branch earlier this week, authorities said.
The heist took place about 11:25 a.m. Monday at the Chase bank, 60 E. Huntington Drive, Arcadia police Lt. Tom Cullen said in a written statement.
“The suspect presented a demand note and then left the location with an undisclosed amount of money,” Cullen said.
He was described as a Latino man in his early-30s, with a black mustache. He wore a black sweat shirt, a black hat and black glasses.
The FBI is assisting the Arcadia Police Department in the investigation.
Anyone with information was asked to contact Arcadia police at 626-574-5150. Tips can also be submitted anonymously by contacting L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.
Authorities sought a woman Thursday who carried out an attempted bank robbery in Baldwin Park Thursday, followed by a successful one in Temple City about an hour later.
Both crimes involved strikingly similar suspect descriptions and tactics, and were believed to be the work of the same female robber, FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said.
The first crime took place just before 10 a.m. at Wells Fargo, 14460 Merced Avenue, Baldwin Park police Sgt. Mark Harvey said.
A female robber entered the bank and handed a teller a threatening note which demanded money and alluded to a weapon, the sergeant said. No weapon was seen.
“Something spooked her and she ran out of the bank before obtaining any funds,” Harvey said.
She was last seen running through a parking lot.
Police described her as a black woman wearing a high school-style jacket with a letter “H” on it, a black shirt and jeans.
Just over an hour later, another bank robbery was reported in Temple City, where the robber did obtain an unknown amount of cash in the heist, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Lt. Ignacio Somoano said.
The Temple City robbery took place about 11:08 a.m. at the Bank of the West, 9934 Los Tunas Drive, the lieutenant said.
Again, the robber was described as a black woman wearing a high school-style jacket with a letter “H” on it, officials said. She was further described as about 30 years old, 5 feet 7 inches tall and 200 pounds.
Eimiller said witnesses also indicated the woman’s hair appeared unusually shiny, as if she was wearing a wig.
Somoano said the robber was last seen fleeing the area in a red car. A further description of the vehicle was unavailable.
The FBI was assisting Baldwin Park police and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department in the investigations.
FBI agents were looking into the possibility the woman is responsible for other area bank robberies.
SURVEILLANCE PHOTOS from Baldwin Park attempted bank robbery (top) and Temple City Bank robbery (bottom) courtesy of the FBI.
ARCADIA — A man fled empty-handed Thursday following a failed robbery at a bank branch, authorities said.
The crime occurred about 5:35 p.m. at Chase, 3870 E. Foothill Blvd., in an unincorporated county area between Arcadia and Pasadena, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Paula Tokar said.
The man entered the bank and handed a teller a threatening note demanding cash, Detective Steve Kays of the Sheriff’s Major Crime Bureau said.
But when the teller didn’t immediately comply, he apparently became “spooked” and fled the bank, Kays said. He was last seen on foot heading south from the area.
Officials described the failed robber as black man in his late 40s with a shaved head. He stood 5 feet 10 inches to 5 feet 11 inches tall and was of average build. He wore a gray hooded sweatshirt and dark pants.
It was not immediately clear if the robber is linked to any other area bank robberies, Kays said, though he was not believed to be the same man who robbed a Monrovia bank Wednesday while wearing women’s clothing.
UPDATE: The FBI has dubbed this robber the “French Tip Bandit,” due to the fingernail polish worn during a Wednesday robbery at a Monrovia bank.
MONROVIA — A bizarrely dressed man claiming to have anthrax in a briefcase robbed a bank branch Wednesday, police said.
The robber wore lip gloss, candy apple red nail polish with a white trim, rectangular glasses, gold hoop earrings, a white bandana, a tan women’s track suit with the hood pulled up and dark-brown UGG Boots when he entered the Chase bank, 690 W. Huntington Drive, about 10 a.m., according to Monrovia police and FBI officials.
He demanded cash from a teller while carrying a briefcase, the lieutenant said. “He said that it had anthrax in it,” Monrovia police Lt. Michael Lee said.
“He indicated the victim should comply with the demands if they wanted to see their family for Christmas,” FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said.
After obtaining an unknown amount of cash, the robber fled the bank, Lee said.
The man took the briefcase with him when he left the bank, police added.
“Police do not believe there is a credible threat of anthrax,” Eimiller said. “No weapon was seen.”
The robber was last seen getting into a late-model, silver Chrysler PT Cruiser with a waiting driver, Eimiller said.
No injuries were reported.
Police distributed a bulletin to other area police agencies in hopes of tracking down the unique-looking suspect.
He was described as 28 to 33 years old, 5 feet 8 inches to 6 feet tall and of average build, Eimiller said. He spoke with a deep voice.
Officials were continuing to look into whether the robber was responsible for any other bank robberies, Eimiller said.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the Monrovia Police Department at 626-256-8000, or the FBI’s 24-hour Los Angeles-area tip line at 888-228-8443.
A Compton woman dubbed by the FBI as the Plain Jane Bandit pleaded guilty Monday to robbing banks in Whittier and Cerritos.
Sylvia Helen Garcia, 38, will be sentenced Feb. 4 in a Los Angeles federal courtroom.
The bandit got her moniker after a witness described her as a plain Jane to detectives.
Garcia admitted to robbing the U.S. Bank at 13525 Whittier Blvd. in Whittier on July 19 of $2,250 as well as the U.S Bank branch at 11900 South Street in Cerritos of $1,860 on July 31.
Three other robbery charges and one attempted robbery charge will be dismissed at her sentencing, according to the plea agreement.
The other charges stem from a July 23 attempted robbery of a Chase Bank in Moreno Valley, a July 23 robbery of a U.S. Bank in Moreno Valley and the July 24 robberies of a U.S. Bank in Buena Park and a U.S. Bank in Wildomar.
FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said the bandit used a demand note and indicated that someone, possibly an accomplice, was waiting for her outside the bank.
Based on the media coverage that the case received, the FBI in Los Angeles got a tip which led to Garcia being arrested.
She is suspected of a total of eight robberies and attempted robberies at banks in Los Angeles, Orange and Riverside counties. Federal prosecutors charged her with five robberies and one attempted robbery.
- Ruby Gonzales
The FBI is offering a $50,000 reward for information leading to the capture of a “heavily armed and dangerous” serial bank robber known as the AK-47 Bandit, who began his multi-state criminal career with a Chino bank heist in which he shot a police officer.
The reward for the robber was increased from $20,000 to $50,000 following what was believed to be his his fifth crime Wednesday in Idaho, according to FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller.
The bandit earned his moniker because of the weaponry he has carried during the crimes — an AK-47 style rifle fixed with a large drum magazine. He’s also been seen wearing a black ski mask, body armor and a vest emblazoned with the word, “Sheriff.”
“This suspect is considered heavily armed and dangerous, and individuals who may come into contact with him are advised to contact law enforcement immediately and refrain from taking independent action to apprehend the suspect,” Eimiller said.
In Wednesday’s heist in Rexburg, Idaho, the bandit ordered employees and customer into a vault while brandishing his trademark weapon, FBI officials said.
The AK-47 Bandit has also been linked to a Vacaville bank robbery on March 12, a North Bend, Washington robbery on July 6 and a failed March 9 heist at a Sacramento bank.
FBI officials described the bandit as a white man between 25 and 40, about 5 feet 10 inches tall, 180 to 220 pounds and of stocky build. In addition to his body armor and sheriff’s vest, the robber has been seen wearing a black coat with a hood, black gloves and baggy Levi jeans during the crimes.
At least three different getaway vehicles have been reported in connection with the robberies.
In the Chino robbery, which is believed to be the first in the spree, someone called police to make bomb threat at the south end of town, Chino Police Chief Miles Pruitt said in the days following the heist and shooting.
The call was made from a pay phone in the vicinity of the bank, Eimiller said.
“Investigators believe the suspect employed a diversionary tactic in an attempt to delay officers responding to the Chino bank robbery,” she added.
It was not clear if the bomb threat was made by the bandit himself or an accomplice.
Recognizing the bomb threat may have been a distraction, other patrol officers also began checking on local banks, Pruitt said.
A Chino patrol officer spotted the assault rifle-wielding bandit exiting the California Bank & Trust about 10:50 a.m., officials said.
The bandit immediately opened fire, striking his patrol car numerous times and wounding the officer, Pruitt said.
The officers was seriously wounded, though the injury was not life-threatening, police said. He remains on light duty as a result of the injury.
Anyone with information regarding the AK-47 bandit is asked to contact their local FBI office or call 9-1-1 immediately.
ALHAMBRA – Police are asking for the public’s help in identifying a man suspected of robbing the Bank of the West at 855 W. Valley Boulevard on Saturday morning.
The suspect entered the bank shortly before 10 a.m. Saturday and handed the teller a note, while verbally demanding money. The teller complied and gave him money. The suspect then left the bank, according to a police statement.
Officials said $2,100 was taken in the robbery.
No one was injured and no weapons were seen.
The suspect is described as a black male in his mid to late 20s, about 5 feet 8inches tall and weighing 175 pounds.
Closed circuit cameras in the bank captured clear images of the suspect during the robbery.
Anyone with information should call 626-570-5161.
- Brenda Gazzar
ROWLAND HEIGHTS – For the second time in less than a week, a man using a note robbed a bank along Colima Road, authorities said Monday.
Sgt. Angie Wilkinson of the sheriff’s Walnut station said a man walked into the Citibank at 18847 Colima Road about 12:15 p.m. Saturday and handed the teller a note saying he had a gun and demanding money.
Wilkinson said the teller gave the man some money and he fled out of sight. No vehicle was seen leaving the area.
The robber was described as a white man in his late 20s or early 30s, about 6 feet tall and 200 pounds. He was wearing at blue hooded sweatshirt and gray sweatpants at the time.
The incident marked the second bank robbery in Rowland Heights last week.
On Wednesday, a man dubbed the “Stretch Bandit” walked into the Bank of the West Branch at 19005 Colima Road and handed the teller a note demanding money. He escaped with about a $1,000.
FBI officials believe the man robbed the same branch on July 12. He is also suspected of robbing a U.S. Bank branch in Hacienda Heights on July 6.
The robber in Wednesday’s incident was described as a white man in his mid 30s with blond hair and blue eyes, about 6 feet 3 inches tall and 185 pounds. He was wearing a tan jacket over a blue hooded sweathshirt.
While Saturday’s robbery bears strong similarities to those committed by the Stretch Bandit and occurred less than a mile from Wednesday’s robbery, authorities could not immediately confirm if they are connected.
- J.D. Velasco