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

Bay Area NewsLocal

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Harlan Kelly, head of the SFPUC and husband to City Administrator Naomi Kelly (right), faces federal charges for allegedly trading inside information on a city contract in return for a paid family vacation. (Courtesy photo)
Harlan Kelly, head of SFPUC, charged with fraud in widening Nuru scandal

Kelly accused of engaging in corrupt partnership with permit expediter

Jeff Tumlin, director of transportation for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, said the agency’s fiscal situation is “far worse” than the worse case scenarios projected back in April. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
SFMTA prepares for massive potential layoffs as budget crisis continues to build

More than 1,200 full-time jobs on the line as agency struggles to close deficit

California Gov. Gavin Newsom is weighing further restrictions as COVID-19 cases rise. (Genaro Molina/Pool/Los Angeles Times/TNS)
Newsom considering new shelter-in-place order as COVID-19 cases rise

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday warned that he may need to reinstate… Continue reading

Nicole Canedo looks at her City-issued Medical Reimbursement Account page on her computer outside her Berkeley apartment on Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2020. Canedo has worked numerous retail jobs in The City and the MRA has helped her with health costs. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Millions left sitting in medical reimbursement accounts by city workers

Health officials looking at how to improve access, outreach as untapped funds reach $409M

Andrew Faulk wrote "My Epidemic." (Courtesy photo)
Doctor’s memoir a fitting remembrance for World AIDS Day

‘My Epidemic’ tells personal stories of men who died

Most Read