A man wanted in connection with a two-week bank-robbing spree in six counties across Minnesota and Wisconsin was charged Tuesday with two heists that occurred in Minneapolis last month, authorities said.
William Villaneuva, 37, faces separate counts of second-degree aggravated robbery for his role in the heists on the city’s South Side, in which authorities say he used the same M.O., or modus operandi: Both times he allegedly walked up to a teller and handed them a note claiming he had a gun, but never displayed one.
The first incident happened at the Wells Fargo Bank branch at 4943 S. 34th Av., and the second at the Wells Fargo at 4712 S. Chicago Av., according to court filings. Authorities say he is suspected in at least five other robberies in Ramsey, Washington, Chisago, and Douglas counties, as well as St. Croix County in western Wisconsin.
Villaneuva, who has no listed address, has been locked up in the Chisago County Jail since Sept. 9, held without bail after being arrested for a probation violation, online records show. No attorney could be located for him in court records as of Tuesday afternoon.
A spokesman for the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office, which is prosecuting the two Minneapolis cases, declined to comment on Tuesday.
Investigators said a break in the case came at the end of August when several of Villanueva’s relatives recognized him from surveillance photos that had been circulated and contacted authorities. Cellphone records also placed Villanueva at the scene of both crimes, and showed he had been in contact with his girlfriend around the same time, authorities said. The girlfriend, who is considered an accomplice, is not named in either complaint.
In the first reported robbery, police say that Villanueva walked into the Wells Fargo branch on S. 34th Avenuea bout 10:26 a.m. on Aug. 12 and handed a teller a note that read: “$50’s + $100’s only. No Dye Packs. I have a gun but don’t want to use it. GIVE BACK NOTE.” The teller responded that she needed to confer with her manager, who gave the suspect $2,569 cash, but kept the note, authorities said.
Police later correlated the note to impressions left in a notebook found in an SUV that Villanueva was driving when he was arrested Sept. 6, the filings said.
“The pen impressions appeared to be created when a pen was used on a top page that was written on and removed from the notebook,” a criminal complaint read. “The pen impressions were readable and were a bank demand note with language consistent with that used in the above-described bank robberies.”
Then, about 1:14 p.m. on Aug. 24, Villanueva is alleged to have robbed the Wells Fargo branch on Chicago Avenue of $681, informing the teller that he “wanted the note back or he would hurt someone,” the complaint said.
Police say that Villaneuva is a suspect in at least five other cases in which banks were robbed in similar circumstances:
• A Mid-West One Bank in White Bear Lake about 2:38 p.m. on Aug. 19.
• A Citizens State Bank in Roberts, Wis about 11:15 a.m. on Aug. 22.
• A Wells Fargo Bank in St. Anthony about 2:05 p.m. on Aug. 26.
• An Associated Bank in North Branch on Aug. 26.
• An Affinity Plus Federal Credit Union in Alexandria on Aug. 29.
In a news release, Minneapolis police spokesman John Elder said that the investigation involved several Minnesota and Wisconsin police departments, as well as the FBI. He said that more charges are forthcoming.