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Police Seek ‘Mr. Magoo Bandit’ in 7 Bank Heists

Times Staff Writer

Police are looking for a man in thick prescription glasses--nicknamed the “Mr. Magoo Bandit"--who is suspected of robbing seven banks in five South Bay communities during a feverish 24-hour crime spree Wednesday and Thursday.

The suspect, whose apparent poor eyesight reminds FBI agents of the grandfatherly cartoon character, made off with at least $10,000 from banks in Torrance, Hermosa Beach, Redondo Beach, Rolling Hills Estates and San Pedro.

“I’ve got so many darned bank robberies that I’ve lost track,” said Torrance Police Sgt. Jack McDonald. “This guy is very unusual. Most guys just rob once a day or once every other day, when they need the money.”

The thief’s frenetic pace has FBI officials drawing comparisons with some of Los Angeles’ most prolific bank robbers, including Edward Chambers Dodson, the “Yankee Bandit.” Dodson sported a New York Yankees baseball cap while robbing 64 banks over six months in 1983 and 1984, FBI agents said. Dodson pleaded guilty to eight robberies and was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

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Dresses Neatly

The South Bay bank robber’s resemblance to Mr. Magoo ends with his glasses: He is in his early 30s, just under 6 feet tall and weighs between 150 and 170 pounds, police said. He is white, with light brown or blond hair, and his face is marked with small scars, perhaps from acne. He dresses neatly, sometimes wears a tie and carries a brown satchel or briefcase.

In each of the seven thefts, the robber passed a note demanding money and indicated that he had a weapon, said Fred Reagan, a spokesman for the FBI, which is coordinating the investigation. McDonald said that in at least one case, the thief showed a bank teller a revolver.

No one was injured during the robberies.

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Authorities declined to discuss further details of the crimes, including how much was stolen from each institution or how they would combat the thief. “That would give away our plan,” McDonald said.

Reagan described the spree this way:

The bandit hit the First Nationwide Savings branch on Pacific Coast Highway in Torrance at 10:22 a.m. Wednesday. Twenty-five minutes later, he was two miles to the northwest at the Sanwa Bank on Hawthorne Boulevard in Torrance. In another 19 minutes, at 11:06 a.m., he hit the Bank of America on Catalina Avenue in Redondo Beach. He ended the day by robbing the Far West Savings & Loan on Pacific Coast Highway in Hermosa Beach at 11:22 a.m.

One hour, four robberies.

The thief got away with at least $10,000 on Wednesday, a local law enforcement official said.

When banks reopened Thursday morning, Reagan said, the bandit went back to work. At 9:10 a.m. he hit the World Savings branch on Rolling Hills Road at the south end of Torrance. At 9:30 a.m., he was further south on the Palos Verdes Peninsula, where he robbed Great Western Savings in the Rolling Hills Estates Peninsula Center. And at 10 a.m., he knocked off the Bank of America branch on 25th Street in San Pedro.

Fifty minutes, three more robberies.

The “Mr. Magoo Bandit” is the latest scourge in a tough year for South Bay banks and savings and loans, authorities said.

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McDonald said 11 banks and savings and loans in Torrance have been robbed this month, compared to the average month that has two or three robberies.

Authorities are blaming 10 other bank robberies this year on the “Soft-Spoken Bandit.” Reagan said that since Jan. 1 that thief--a quiet man who calls tellers “ma’am"--robbed seven banks in Torrance, one in San Pedro, one in Manhattan Beach and one in Redondo Beach.

Reagan said the most recent robbery by the “Soft-Spoken Bandit” occurred March 22 at the Imperial Savings at Torrance and Hawthorne boulevards.


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