Abduction part of latest robbery

  • Article by: PAUL WALSH and ABBY SIMONS , Star Tribune staff writers
  • Updated: November 5, 2010 - 9:36 PM

Two men took a teller from her driveway in Ramsey, drove her to the bank and demanded money.

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Suspected bank robber in US Bank in Anoka, MN

It was pitch black Friday morning when the two masked men confronted the woman in her Ramsey driveway just after 6 a.m., ordered her into her vehicle and threatened to shoot her if she didn't cooperate.

The men drove the frightened woman to the U.S. Bank in Anoka where she worked as a teller, forced her inside and ordered her to give them money. They fled without the car.

Authorities are calling it the most brazen and dangerous act so far by the pair, now suspected of targeting at least five banks in Twin Cities suburbs since early August.

Late Friday the FBI announced an unusually large $100,000 reward for information leading to their arrest.

To presumably stake out a bank employee and confront her at home is practically unheard of in the Twin Cities, and "definitely" considered an escalation of the crime, said FBI spokesman Steven Warfield.

"We've seen that in other cities, but we haven't heard of anything like that happening her in quite a while, if at all." he said.

In two previous bank robberies and two attempted heists, the suspects waited outside banks in the early morning before they opened.

The latest holdup occurred about 6:20 a.m. at the U.S. Bank, 2353 7th Av., a branch that offers only drive-through service. The branch is located along a busy Anoka thoroughfare south of Highway 10. Several neighboring businesses, including a gas station and hair salon, as well as residential side streets, provide ample parking. Mark Gausman owns Bronco's Slow Roasted Sandwiches, located just north of the bank. His business had opened at about 5:45 a.m. and customers were inside during the robbery. No one saw anything.

"I wish we would have," he said.

The FBI said the teller described the suspects as black, in their mid-20s to early 30s, with short hair. One was stocky and about 5 feet 8 inches. The other was about 6 feet, with a thin build. They wore dark clothing, gloves and had their faces partly concealed by a scarf or rag. They have displayed guns and threatened employees with violence if they don't cooperate.

Warfield said the FBI is confident they are the same men suspected in the earlier heists, where the clothing description was the same. The bank is reviewing video surveillance.

The other incidents suspected of being part of the string of robberies include:

• On Sept. 13 in Plymouth, two masked and armed men forced employees into the vault at a U.S. Bank branch at 4105 Lancaster Lane N. about 6:45 a.m. They fled with an undisclosed amount of cash.

• On Sept. 2 in Lakeville, an attempted robbery. Details were not immediately available.

• On Aug. 30 in Chanhassen, two armed men robbed the TCF Bank at 900 78th St. W. The suspects, dressed in black, attempted to enter the rear door as an employee was entering. The employee locked the door before the men could get in, and the suspects ran.

• On Aug. 4 in Champlin, two masked men robbed the Wells Fargo Bank at 11966 Business Park Blvd. They entered with handguns as employees prepared to open at 6:55 a.m. The robbers fled out the back door with cash.

U.S. Bank offered $50,000 Friday morning for information leading to the suspects' arrests. That reward was doubled later in the day.

Bank spokesman Steve Dale declined to discuss the case citing the ongoing FBI investigation. He said the bank "is concerned for the safety of its employees and customers at all times."

Thomas Lekan, a retired law enforcement officer and Senior Vice President of Cleveland-based Atlantis Security, counts bank security among his specialities. Lekan said robberies like Friday's are rare, particularly for serial robbers who used a previous method of operation.

"There's something that prompted those robbers to take a step which is very dangerous and would add a lot of prison time -- abduction," Lekan said. "It ups the ante and you could get to the point where you could hurt somebody. They've taken a step up."

Anyone with information is asked to call the FBI at 612-376-3200, Anoka police at 763-576-2800 or the Anoka County Sheriff's Office at 763-323-5000.

Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482 Abby Simons • 612-673-4921

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