Belmont robbery: Just one stop on a highway spree?

FBI agents say the man wanted in Belmont for a Nov. 19 bank robbery could be responsible for nearly a dozen similar crimes in California and Utah in the past five months.

The crimes — beginning July 16 in Petaluma — have been linked by similar suspect descriptions and the suspect’s predilection for California banks has earned him the FBI nickname “The Highway 101 Bandit.”

On Nov. 19, the most recent incident, the man entered the Citibank at 1888 Ralston Ave. around 1:45 p.m. and demanded an undisclosed amount of cash from a teller, police said. Cash in hand, he allegedly fled the bank on foot, heading toward Alameda de las Pulgas on Ralston Ave.

Belmont police Lt. Dan DeSmidt said no gun was seen during the crime and no injuries were reported.

The Belmont robbery brings the FBI total to 12 with all but one committed in California; the lone out-of-state incident was a Sept. 4 robbery at a bank in Sandy, Utah.

“If there’s a situation where it’s multijurisdictional, we’d get involved because our jurisdiction covers all of those,” FBI agent Joseph Schadler said.

Security camera photos of the suspect from the Belmont robbery are the first known photos, but Schadler said the suspect’s description — a white or Hispanic man in his 50s, 5 feet 9 inches tall with a medium build and salt-and-pepper hair, a mustache and glasses — matches that of the other robberies.

DeSmidt said Belmont has a few bank robberies every year, but typically fewer than larger cities such as Burlingame or San Mateo. He said the Police Department takes part in security training and consulting for local banks, to help them reduce their risk of being targeted by bank robbers.

Anyone with information should call the Belmont Police Department at (650) 595-7400, Belmont police Crime Tip Line at (650) 598-3000 or the FBI San Francisco Field Office at (415) 553-7400.

Highway 101 Bandit’s possible path

The Belmont robbery suspect could be linked to up to 12 crimes extending to Utah.

1. July 16: Bank of Marin, Petaluma

2. Aug. 8: Bank of America, Santa Barbara

3. Aug. 11: Citibank, San Jose

4. Aug. 25: Guaranty Bank, Campbell

5. Sept. 4: Zions Bank, Sandy, Utah

6. Sept. 18: Community West Bank, Westlake Village

7. Sept. 18: Bank of the West, San Marion

8. Sept. 22: Cal National Bank, Brentwood

9. Oct. 4: CA Bank and Trust, Palm Desert

10. Oct. 30: Bank of the West, Burlingame

11. Nov. 14: CA Bank and Trust, Carlsbad

12. Nov. 19: Citibank, Belmont

jgoldman@examiner.com

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