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Bank of America bomb robbery more Hollywood than reality

September 5, 2012 |  1:38 pm


Kidnapping a bank manager to rob a bank is rare these days, but even more unusual is the use of a bomb, current and former bank robbery investigators said.

That's the made-for-the-movies plot that played out Wednesday morning at an East Los Angeles Bank of America, where authorities say two robbers kidnapped a bank manager, strapped an explosive to her body, then forced her to rob her own branch.

William J. Rehder. a retired FBI special agent who spent decades investigating bank robberies, said he recalled several similar robberies in the 1970s and 1980s but not that many in recent years.

PHOTOS: Bank manager forced to rob own branch

"We had an incident where they forced the person to take the money then drove them around downtown [Los Angeles] and dumped them out of the car telling them the device was still live," he said, adding that the device was not armed.

The only case Rehder recalls in which a device turned out to be real was a 2003 robbery in Erie, Penn., where a man robbed a bank with a necklace bomb that blew up.

In the recent movie "30 Minutes or Less," a pizza deliveryman played by Jesse Eisenberg is forced to rob a bank by two men who strap a bomb to him.

Rehder and federal law enforcement sources said that bank manager kidnappings for purposes of a robbery were more common decades ago and are generally rare these days.

Rehder said the usual mode of operation was to break into the home of a bank official and hold their family hostage while forcing them to rob the bank. In these cases, he said, managers would take the money out of the vault fearing for the safety of their families.

On Wednesday morning, the bank manager entered the bank, where other employees were present, took the money and told her colleagues she was strapped with explosives. She followed instructions to throw the money out the bank's doors.

Helicopter TV cameras showed the woman exiting the bank unharmed. Parker said authorities are searching for two suspects who fled in a white car.


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Photo: The sheriff's arson and explosives team robot detonated an explosive in the street in front of the bank. Credit: Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times