Comments & Curiosities: Giving some bank robbers a bad name

There is something about Newport-Mesa they just love. Not people, bank robbers. If there is anywhere else on this earth that thinks it can compete with Newport Beach and Costa Mesa for the "Bank Robberies Per Capita" award, I say bring it on.

At about 9:20 a.m. Friday, the Citibank at 3021 E. Coast Hwy. was robbed by a suspect the FBI has dubbed the "Ho-Hum Bandit." I think that's cold, but we'll get back to that in a moment. Here is the believe-it-or-not part: not only was the same bank robbed just six weeks ago, on June 11, but Newport Beach police and the FBI believe the robber was…wait for it…the Ho-Hum Bandit. Apparently, bank robbers are like the rest of us — when they find a bank they like, they stick with it.

The FBI said they picked the Ho-Hum Bandit nickname because his features are "bland" and his manner is "unassuming." Ouch. Just because someone is a bank robber doesn't mean they don't have feelings. They described the suspect as a white man in his 30s, about 5-foot-8, with a thin build.

OK, it's not a lot to work with, but what about "The Thin Man"? Or "The Five-Eight Bandit?" Either of those would work. Then again I guess Ho-Hum Bandit is no worse than what they called Amir Saadat, who robbed an impressive 23 Southern California banks in 2005, including three in Newport Beach. The FBI dubbed Saadat the "Big Nose Bandit," which is pretty self-explanatory.

The other problem for the Ho-Hummer is that if you're going to start a bank robbing business in Newport-Mesa, you're joining a long line of standout, stylish bank robbers who have set a high bar for lowlife's, like David Andrew Camp, the "Blue Note Bandit," who was caught in February of this year and specialized in robbing banks in supermarkets, which makes sense I guess. If you have to go to the store anyway, you may as well rob the bank while you're there.

He got his nickname because of the bright blue paper he used for the obligatory note to the teller. See? That's what we're looking for in a bank robber around here. If you have to knock over a bank, stop by Papyrus first and get some 32-pound powder blue note cards. Make sure they're not monogrammed though. Just because you're being bad doesn't mean you shouldn't look good.

If David Camp was blue, Daniel James Dunleavy, who knocked over a Newport Beach Bank of America in 2008, was very green, and the most environmentally sensitive bank robber in the history of Newport-Mesa if not the world. On March 5, 2008, Dunleavy made an unauthorized withdrawal from the B of A at East Coast Highway and Marigold and ran full-tilt boogie down PCH, but was grabbed by Newport Beach police minutes later and just blocks away at a bus stop, waiting calmly and quietly for a bus. Reducing your carbon footprint is good, but if you're a bank robber, taking the bus is bad.

Overreaching was the downfall of James McKibbin, who was dubbed the "Quatro Bandit," presumably because he robbed not one, or three, but four banks in one day — June 8, 2005. I have an issue with McKibbin's nickname, since it's neither Spanish (cuatro) nor Italian (quattro) but that probably doesn't bother anyone but me.

Mr. Quatro kicked off his wild Wednesday at 10:45 a.m. at a Washington Mutual in Westminster then hit another Washington Mutual in Huntington Beach two hours later. He must not have liked the service at WaMu because he robbed a Union Bank in Tustin a half hour after that. But he must have decided to give Washington Mutual one more chance because he finished his day at the WaMu on 17th Street in Costa Mesa.

Whew, that is exhausting. It's not easy being sleazy. Do you know how many bus transfers Dunleavy would have needed to pull that off?

All those bank robbers and their respective nicknames are well and good, but they of course can't hold a candle to Brianna Catherine Cery, a.k.a Brian Cery, the 50-something man who worked at Ralphs supermarket on 17th Street by day (Brian) but moonlighted on his days off not only as a bank robber, but a transvestite bank robber (Brianna.) There are a lot of bank robbers in this world. But transvestite bank robbers who work at Ralphs? Very few.

If you recall, Brian-Brianna is caught while behaving badly at the Bank of America on Newport Center Drive when a bank customer who is also a regular at Ralphs recognizes him and actually says "Hi," oblivious to the fact that there is a robbery is in progress and I am just a little tiny bit busy at the moment thank you very much! Geez Louise, you're in your full-battle bank robber gear — wig, tank top, tight jeans, heels — and they still recognize you. That is so unfair.

Where will the next Newport-Mesa bank job go down? No idea. What will the robber be called? Not a clue. When will it happen? That one I can answer — soon. In the meantime, stay alert, watch the other people in line at all times, and if you see anyone with a big nose, ho-hum features or blue note paper, report them to the authorities immediately. I gotta go.

PETER BUFFA is a former Costa Mesa mayor. His column runs Sundays. He may be reached at

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