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Robbers in bizarre Bank of America heist on the run

September 6, 2012 |  3:03 am

Authorities are searching for two robbers in a bizarre heist at an East L.A. Bank of America.

A bank manager said she was leaving her Huntington Park home for work Wednesday morning when two masked men snatched her in her garage. They strapped what they told her was an explosive device to her chest and instructed her to drive to her bank and give them money.

Authorities said the manager complied, taking a bag filled with cash to the back of the bank, where the robbers grabbed it and sped away in a car.

The robbers avoided being seen on bank videocameras and as of Wednesday evening were still at large with what officials said was a large sum of money.

The bank manager was unharmed. The L.A. County Sheriff's Department bomb squad detonated the device, which law enforcement sources said did not appear to be an active bomb.

The FBI and local police interviewed the manager at length Wednesday but have released few details about what exactly happened. Initially, officials said she had been kidnapped Tuesday night.

Her name has not been released, but a TV news helicopter camera captured her talking to officers in the back of a patrol car.

It's unclear how the robbers came to target her. Sources said it is possible they had been following her from the bank.

The manager entered the bank just after 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, shortly before it was supposed to open for business. She informed her colleagues inside about the device and she collected the money.

"She followed instructions to throw the money out the bank's back doors," Sheriff's Capt. Mike Parker said. The two robbers then fled.

Moments later, the bank alerted the East Los Angeles sheriff's station. An arson and explosives team arrived and carefully pried the device off the bank manager and took it outside, Parker said.

A bomb squad robot rolled onto Atlantic Boulevard in front of the bank and inspected the device. Then a bomb squad specialist in full protective gear surrounded it with sandbags.

Several hundred people in the area were evacuated Wednesday morning.

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-- Richard Winton and Sam Quinones

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