Prison term sought for Roseville serial bank robber raised in Saudi 'crystal palace'

  • Article by: PAUL WALSH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 7, 2014 - 8:43 PM

The family told authorities that she was under the spell of a man who said he was desperate for money.

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Ranya Al-Huthaili

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Prosecutors want a nearly five-year prison sentence for a young Roseville woman who grew up in a “crystal palace” in Saudi Arabia only to go on a bank robbery spree that her family blames on a manipulative lover.

Ranya Al-Huthaili, 23, admitted in her guilty plea in February that she hid behind large sunglasses and held up five banks in the Twin Cities and western Wisconsin from Aug. 15 until Sept. 9, threatening bloodshed while making off with more than $20,000 in total.

In a filing Tuesday in federal court in Minneapolis, the U.S. attorney’s office said Al-Huthaili lived “a life of privilege” until moving to the Twin Cities from Saudi Arabia with her mother at age 17. She graduated from Roseville High School and attended Hamline University in St. Paul.

“[Al-Huthaili’s] own mother describes the defendant’s home in Saudi Arabia as a ‘crystal palace,’ ” the prosecution noted in its filing seeking a prison term of 57 months.

“The defendant had maids and drivers to wait on her needs … counted princesses as her closest friends,” and had her tuition paid in full by the Saudi government plus $1,800 for personal expenses, prosecutors continued.

The family explained to law enforcement that Al-Huthaili was under the romantic spell of a new love interest who said he was desperate for money to buy his way out of the Mafia as a hit man and to pay for cancer treatment. She first loaned him $8,000 based on his “tales of woe,” and then started robbing banks, according to court records.

Al-Huthaili’s defense attorney sought a shorter, unspecified sentence. Sentencing is scheduled for May 21.

Prosecutors countered that Al-Huthaili used her lover’s stories as justification, and “despite her idyllic upbringing, took a dark turn.” The prosecution also noted that Al-Huthaili “stated that [her lover] was not even aware that she was robbing banks.”

Al-Huthaili was arrested Sept. 9 at Rosedale Shopping Center, where federal agents saw her buy a laptop computer with marked cash from the robbery of the Dairy State Bank in Menomonie, Wis., that day.

While always hiding her eyes behind large, dark sunglasses, Al-Huthaili switched from donning a wig, a scarf or a baseball cap. Her signature line to the tellers in some of the holdups became, “You have one minute or I will use the gun,” according to the prosecution.

The case was cracked when someone called a Stacy bank after a robbery and asked whether a cellphone had been left in the bathroom, according to court records. Authorities then traced that inquiry back to Al-Huthaili’s mother.

 

Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482

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