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.
BALDWIN PARK >> The cause of death of a 54-year-old Duarte man found unconscious in front of a Baldwin Park grocery store remains under investigation, though the man suffered from several maladies and foul play was not initially suspected.
Paramedics pronounced Raul Ygnacio Acuna dead shortly after he was found lying unconscious in front of Food 4 Less, 3000 N. Baldwin Park Blvd., Los Angeles County Department of Coroner Assistant Chief of Operations Ed Winter said.
An autopsy had been performed, but a cause of death was yet to be determined pending the results of additional tests, Winter said Thursday.
Though listed in coroner’s documents as transient, niece Rachel Chavez said her uncle was a lifelong Duarte resident.
Family members were awaiting word from the coroner regarding exactly what happened to Acuna, she said. They knew only that he had gone for a walk after leaving the nearby Kaiser Permanente hospital.
“He was diabetic,” the niece said. He had a lot of ailments.”
Acuna is survived by son Nicholas Acuna; mother Linda Olsen-Acuna; siblings Angela Acuna Hernandez, Eddie Acuna Jr., Cynthia Marin, Alex Acuna, David Olsen; and many nieces and nephews, Chavez said.
A former steel worker who had not been working lately due to his illness, Chavez described her uncle as a “funny, funny guy.”
“He was one of those guys who wanted to make everyone laugh,” she said. “He was so much fun to be around. His energy was so amazing.”
“His family loved him very much,” Chavez said. “We will greatly miss him.”
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 “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 at 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.
IRWINDALE >> An AB 109 probationer is accused of violating a restraining order and carjacking his ex-girlfriend early Sunday, officials said.
Officers arrested Manuel Martinez, 21, of Duarte on suspicion of carjacking and violating a criminal protective order following the incident, which took place shortly after midnight at an ARCO gas station at 110 E. Longden Ave., according to Irwindale police Sgt. Rudy Gatto.
Martinez, who was on post-release community supervision under AB 109 guidelines following a domestic violence conviction and was barred by court order from contacting the woman, approached the woman at the gas pumps, Gatto said.
Martinez demanded a ride, but the woman refused, the sergeant said. He then pulled the woman from the driver seat of the car, wrestled her keys away from her and drove away in her vehicle. The woman suffered minor injuries but declined medical treatment.
Police found the car abandoned near Pamela Park in Duarte about 30 minutes later, Gatto said. Officers found Martinez in the 400 block of Shrode Avenue in Duarte and took him into custody without a struggle.
Martinez was being held in lieu of $100,000 bail pending his arraignment hearing, scheduled Tuesday in West Covina Superior Court, records show.
PHOTO of suspect Manuel Martinez, 21, of Duarte courtesy of the Irwindale Police Department
DUARTE >> Three men carjacked a man at gunpoint in the parking lot of a Duarte Walmart store Friday evening, officials said.
The crime occurred shortly after 7:30 p.m. in the parking lot at 1600 Mountain Avenue, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. Tony Haynes said.
The victim, a man of about 30, was approached by three men who brandished a gun and demanded his car, the sergeant said. The carjackers fled in the victim’s silver Acura sedan.
No injuries were reported. A suspect description was not available.
DUARTE >> Deputies are seeking clues in the shooting of a man Thursday in a residential neighborhood, authorities said.
The shooting occurred just before 1 a.m. in the 2400 block of Myrtle Avenue, in an unincorporated county area surrounded by Duarte, Monrovia and Arcadia, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said.
Deputies responding to reports of the shooting encountered the victim, a man in his 40s, suffering from a superficial gunshot wound, Sgt. Ed Mackenzie of the sheriff’s Temple Station said. Paramedics took him to a hospital for treatment of the wound, which was not believed to be serious.
The circumstances and motive in the shooting remained under investigation, he said. No suspect description was available.
DUARTE >> Three people escaped injury in a shooting on a residential cul-de-sac early Sunday, officials said.
The shooting took place about 12:30 a.m. in the 1300 block of Starhaven Street, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. Michael Martinez said.
Three victims were on foot when two attackers opened fire on them before fleeing in a car, the sergeant said. The group of victims suffered no injuries.
A detailed description of the suspects or their car was not available.
DUARTE >> Deputies are investigating the stabbing of a man in a residential Duarte neighborhood late Friday.
The crime was reported about 8:15 p.m. in the 1400 block of Crestfield Drive, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. Oscar Lopez said.
Deputies responding to a report of an injured person found the victim, a man in his early-20s, out on the street suffering from a stab wound to his abdomen, the sergeant said. The injury was not believed to be life threatening.
No information regarding the circumstances of the attack or a possible suspect was available.
Throughout the San Gabriel Valley and beyond, cops have been working to brighten the holidays of needy and disadvantaged kids.
Police and California Highway Patrol Officers, as well as Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies, have been busily playing the roles of elves distributing toys, food and cheer to young people in need of some holiday spirit.
The California Highway Patrol and Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department have run large-scale toy drives to collect gifts for kids who might otherwise go without this holiday season.
And sheriff’s officials even brought Santa Claus, via helicopter, to meet with kids in Compton Saturday as deputies took them on a special Target shopping trip. Sheriff’s deputies also hosted an annual party Dec. 7 for abused and neglected children.
Police officers from both the Irwindale and Covina police departments have delivered toys to the young patients at the City of Hope in Duarte this month.
Police agencies including those in Whittier and West Covina, as well as some sheriff’s stations, joined Target stores for the “Heroes & Helpers” program, in which officers take needy youths shopping for gifts, officials said.
In La Puente, deputies visited schools and churches and neighborhood to hand out about 300 bags full of groceries Friday, sheriff’s Lt. Pete Cacheiro said. And more food giveaways are planned this week.
Baldwin Park police attracted an estimated 2,000 kids to their police station Friday as they handed out more than 3,500 toys, according to the Baldwin Park Police Association. And of course, Santa Claus was on-hand as well.
PHOTOS: (top to bottom) 1.)Covina police officials deliver toys to children at the City of Hope in Duarte on Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2014. (Courtesy) 2.) Whittier police take children shopping at Target in Whittier as part of the “Heroes & Helpers” program on Saturday, Dec. 20, 2014. (Courtesy) 3.) Principal Mona Diaz of Workman Elementary School in La Puente stands in front of a patrol car as Sgt. John Suh unloads bags of groceries to be handed out to families to help out for the holidays on Friday, Dec. 18, 2014. (Courtesy) 4.) Children meet with Santa Claus at the Baldwin Park Police Station as the Baldwin Park Police Association handed out more than 3,500 toys. (Courtesy) 5.) Irwindale police and city officials from Irwindale and La Puente deliver donated toys to City of Hope in Duarte on Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2014. From left to right: La Puente City Councilman David Argudo, Irwindale police Officer Shawn Cory, Irwindale police Officer Diego Cornejo, Irwindale police Detective Jose Vargas, Irwindale police Capt. Ty Henshaw and Irwindale Mayor Mark Breceda. (Courtesy) 6.) West Covina police take children shopping at Target in Whittier as part of the “Heroes & Helpers” program on Thursday, Dec. 11, 2014. (Courtesy)
DUARTE >> A man fled with an unknown amount of cash after robbing a Little Caesars pizzeria late Saturday, officials said.
The crime took place about 9:15 p.m. at the restaurant, 1336 Huntington Drive, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. Julie Geary said.
A robber with a black handkerchief covering his face entered the store and demanded money from a female employee, the sergeant said. The victim complied, and the robber fled the area in a green Nissan vehicle.
No weapon was seen during the robbery, Geary added.
A detailed suspect description was not available.