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FBI Seeking ‘Green Gaiter Bandit’ Following String Of California Bank Robberies
Authorities are hunting an as-yet unidentified crook — described as a white male in his 50s or 60s — who carried out a series of bank robberies in Southern California while wearing a green neck warmer.
Federal agents are on the trail of an unidentified bank robber who has struck more than a dozen banks in Los Angeles and Orange Counties dating back several months.
The unknown thief, dubbed the “green gaiter bandit” by the FBI, has eluded capture since he first surfaced in October. The man, who conducted 14 bank robberies in a span of a few months, concealed his face during the stick-ups using a neck warmer.
Captured by various surveillance cameras, he is also known to dress in baggy jeans, a tan jacket, work-style clothing and typically wears a variety of neck gaiters — including a green one. In some instances, he wore a hoodie over the top of his head to further disguise himself.
The California bandit is described as a white male with graying hair, a medium to heavy build, who’s roughly six feet tall, and is estimated to be in his 50s or 60s. It’s unclear if the man was armed during the alleged incidents.
"No weapon seen but we caution that bank robbers could be armed and, therefore, dangerous," Laura Eimiller, a media coordinator for the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office, told Oxygen.com in a statement on Thursday afternoon. "We ask that anyone with information refrain from approaching the suspect, but contact law enforcement instead."
The thief carried out his first known bank robbery at a Union Bank in the 900 Block of North Harbor in Fullerton, California — about three miles north of Anaheim — on Oct. 11. According to the FBI, however, the man left that bank empty-handed.
Weeks later, he successfully made off with an unknown amount of cash from a Chase bank in Huntington. On Dec. 3, he returned to the same Chase branch, but failed to get anything on his second attempt, federal authorities said.
“During the robberies, the suspect typically approaches a victim teller and either passes a note, or makes a verbal demand, or both,” the FBI said in a press release on Jan. 26. “In some cases, the suspect verbally demands cash or the ‘loose bills.’ After receiving the cash or an attempt, the suspect has been seen fleeing the bank on foot.”
The suspected bank robber was particularly active during last year’s holiday season, conducting five separate robberies between Dec. 23 and Dec. 31.
Three of the targeted financial institutions in that series of heists were located in Costa Mesa, California. The other pair of robberies unfolded in Torrance — about an hour’s drive north up the coast. Law enforcement there declined to comment on the pending case this week.
“We are not providing any further information on these incidents at this time as we continue to work on this joint investigation,” Sgt. Mark Ponegalek, a public information officer for the Torrance Police Department, told Oxygen.com in a statement.
A pair of Wells Fargo banks in Costa Mesa and Placentia — the latest to be targeted by the wanted crook — were unsuccessfully held up on Jan. 20 and 21, respectively.
Local officials deferred all questions pertaining to the case to federal authorities.
“Unfortunately although it occurred in our city, the FBI has primary jurisdiction over the incident,” Sgt. Tom McKenzie, an investigator with Placentia Police Department, also told Oxygen.com.
Of the 14 known bank robbery attempts in recent months, the thief was successful nine times.
The FBI, along with several local law enforcement agencies (including the Huntington Beach Police Department, the Costa Mesa Police Department, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, the Gardena Police Department, the Placentia Police Department and the Torrance Police Department), are jointly investigating the string of bank robberies.
As of this week, investigators haven’t made any arrests.
“The Costa Mesa Police Department is grateful for the law enforcement coordinated effort to identify the Green Gaiter Bandit,” Roxi Fyad, a public affairs manager for the Costa Mesa Police Department, stated in an email sent to Oxygen.com. “We are asking for the public’s assistance so the bandit can be brought to justice.”
The FBI is now relying on the public in the hopes a tipster may be able to pinpoint the identity of the suspected elusive bank robber.
“While media coverage will no doubt generate tips, we have not yet identified the suspect,” Eimiller, the FBI's California Field Office spokesperson, said.
Federal investigators, who declined to comment on the exact amount of cash stolen by the alleged crookciting a bureau policy that prohibits the public release of a specific total, noted that only miniscule sums of money were swiped.
“Suffice to say that he did receive cash at the robberies but not on the attempts,” Eimiller added. “The amounts were pretty small each time.”
Anyone with information related to the streak of robberies is urged to contact the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office by calling 310-477-6565.