Many people use briefcases to carry money into banks, but FBI agents say they are searching for a man who uses one all too often to carry cash out of them.
Stolen cash, that is.
A bank robber dubbed the "Briefcase Gun Bandit" has struck 19 times over the last year, focusing on banks on Ventura Boulevard in the western San Fernando Valley, FBI spokesman John Hoos said Monday.
"He typically enters a bank carrying a dark leather briefcase," Hoos said. "Then he will open the briefcase and point the gun at the teller."
Just last Thursday the bandit struck twice in the Valley, first robbing a Household Bank on Ventura Boulevard in Studio City and, later, a Nationwide Bank on Tampa Avenue in Northridge, Hoos said. After flashing his gun, the bandit told the bank tellers that he wanted to make a withdrawal and then used his briefcase to cart away undisclosed amounts of cash.
Hoos said that an unusual aspect is that "this guy is hitting the same banks over and over." So far, the bandit is believed to have pulled off 16 robberies at only seven banks.
FBI investigators have linked him to three robberies at a Household Bank branch in Woodland Hills and two each at General Bank and 1st Nationwide Bank branches, both in Northridge, and Century Bank and Downey Savings branches, both in Encino.
Outside of the Valley, the bandit is suspected of committing three robberies at a First Federal Bank of California branch in West Hollywood and two heists at Southern California Savings in Calabasas.
Hoos refused to disclose how much has been taken in the string of holdups, saying only, "it's enough."
The bandit is described as a white man in his late 20s to early 30s, nearly six feet tall, weighing about 180 pounds, with blondish-red hair and a mustache. He dresses in casual clothes and carries either a black or burgundy briefcase, which holds a long-barreled pistol.
Bank security cameras have captured clear pictures of the bandit as he walked through several of the banks carrying his briefcase, and in one photo a handgun. "Somebody has got to know this guy," Hoos said.
Nobody has been injured during the robberies.
Larry Storm, who is in charge of security for Household Bank, said that as a result of the robberies his bank is considering a plan to install bullet-resistant glass protection for its tellers. To date, the robber is believed to have hit Household four times, including three times at a branch at 22000 Ventura Blvd. and once at a branch at 12229 Ventura Blvd. in Studio City.
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Bank Robber Targets Valley A bank robber dubbed the "Briefcase Gun Bandit" has struck 19 times over the past year, including these 14 locations in the San Fernando Valley. Other robberies include two at a bank in Calabasas and three at a West Hollywood bank. 1. World Savings (3/12/94) 2. Household Bank (3/12/94) 3. Household Bank (4/7/94) 4. Household Bank (10/8/94) 5. Century Bank (10/28/94) 6. Downey Savings (11/18/94) 7. Downey Savings (12/2/94) 8. 1st National Bank (1/4/95) 9. Century Bank (1/13/95) 10. General Bank (1/29/95) 11. General Bank (2/7/95) 12. Coast Federal Bank (2/27?95) 13. 1st Nationwide Bank (3/16/95) 14. Household Bank (3/16/95) Source: FBI