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Police Get Message, Nab Bank Bandits : Crime: Robbers grab tracking device with cash in Mission Viejo. Officers follow beacon and catch them near San Onofre.

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

Robbers who inadvertently grabbed a tracking device along with cash from a Mission Viejo bank were caught an hour later after authorities picked up the signal on Interstate 5 and shut the freeway down in both directions, sheriff’s deputies said.

A woman driver and two men suspected of holding up the Bank of America branch at gunpoint were arrested after authorities followed their car into San Diego County, said Lt. Lynn Nehring of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.

Police identified the men as Jesus Ababa, 31, and Jonathan Araujo, 26, both of El Centro. The identity of the woman was not immediately available.

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Nehring said the men, one brandishing a “machine-gun type” weapon, entered the bank in the 27000 block of Puerta Real about 4:30 p.m. and forced everyone to the floor. While the gunman stood guard, the second suspect leaped over the counter and stole an undetermined amount of money from several cash drawers, Nehring said. The tracking device was hidden in the money, he said.

No one was hurt and the men left in a 1989 Pontiac.

Deputies in San Clemente picked up the signal a short time later and spotted the car, Nehring said.

With a police helicopter overhead, deputies followed the car south on Interstate 5. Traffic on the freeway was closed in both directions as police pulled the car over south of San Onofre, Nehring said.

A woman was driving and two men were hiding in the trunk, he said.

The three suspects were taken into custody without incident.

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