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Suspect in San Diego-area robbery spree holds PhD, worked at UCSD, authorities say

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Surveillance footage shows the man suspected of heists at six San Diego-area credit unions between Dec. 28 and Feb. 23. FBI agents and San Diego police arrested a suspect in the robbery spree Tuesday.
(Courtesy of FBI San Diego)

A former postdoctoral researcher at UC San Diego has been arrested and charged in a string of robberies at San Diego-area credit unions that took place over the last few months, the FBI and San Diego police said.

Karl William Doron, 43, who holds a doctorate in psychological and brain sciences, was arrested Tuesday after a teller was robbed at a Sorrento Valley credit union, authorities said.

The suspect had been under surveillance when the heist happened at the Navy Federal Credit Union on Mira Mesa Boulevard and Camino Santa Fe, said FBI San Diego spokeswoman Special Agent Davene Butler.

Authorities believe the same person is responsible for six heists at local credit unions between December and February.

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Immediately after the Tuesday robbery, agents and officers from the surveillance team moved in on Doron and arrested him, Butler said. He was allegedly armed with a loaded handgun and was booked into jail later that night.

A University of California San Diego spokeswoman said Doron earned his doctorate elsewhere, but worked in UCSD’s psychology department from 2014 to 2015.

He was arraigned Friday in San Diego Superior Court on 10 felony counts of robbery and attempted robbery, and a judge set his bail at $1 million, according to a spokeswoman for the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office.

“The 10 counts stem from nine separate incidents including seven completed robberies, one of which had two victims,” spokeswoman Tanya Sierra said in an email.

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If Doron does attempt to post bail, a judge will call a hearing “to determine the source” of the money being used to post bail, Sierra said.

Late last month, the FBI had sought the public’s help to identify the robber who at the time was suspected of heists at five credit unions in San Diego and one in Chula Vista.

The spree began Dec. 28 at a Mission Federal Credit Union on Clairemont Mesa Boulevard, and continued just over a month later, on Jan. 29, at a California Coast Credit Union on Genesee Avenue.

Both locations are in Clairemont. Voting records from 2016 and 2017 show Doron resided at a duplex in Clairemont.

The bandit, who used demand notes but never flashed a weapon, picked up his pace in February, when he pulled off four robberies: Feb. 7 at a San Diego County Credit Union branch in Rancho Bernardo; Feb. 9 at the same Clairemont Mission Federal Credit Union branch he hit Dec. 28; Feb. 16 at a Mission Federal Credit Union in Miramar Ranch North; and Feb. 23 at a California Coast Credit Union on Eastlake Parkway in Chula Vista.

During two of the crimes, the robber carried a motorcycle helmet, and other times, he toted a calculator that he held to his ear as if it were a cellphone, according to the FBI. On two occasions in February, the suspect was spotted casing branches that he later robbed.

“Based on a joint investigation by agents and detectives, information was developed that identified Doron as the suspect,” Butler said in a statement.

As a result of that FBI and San Diego police investigation — with “significant assistance” from Chula Vista police, according to Butler — Doron was under surveillance Tuesday and taken into custody upon leaving the Sorrento Valley credit union.

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alex.riggins@sduniontribune.com


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