FBI taking over investigation into Kings Beach Bank of West robbery | SierraSun.com

FBI taking over investigation into Kings Beach Bank of West robbery

Jason Shueh and Matt Welch
Sierra Sun

KINGS BEACH, Calif. and#8212; The FBI his now the lead investigator regarding the robbery Monday afternoon at Bank of the West in Kings Beach, an official said Tuesday.

In a Tuesday phone interview, Dena Erwin, public information officer for the Placer County Sheriffand#8217;s Office out of Auburn, confirmed the FBI has taken over, but had no more details about the incident or the man who robbed the bank.

Officers on Monday said the man and#8212; who is described as a 6-foot, 2-inch white male and donning a fake beard during the robbery and#8212; was driving a maroon or burgundy four-door sedan, and he may have used an accomplice.

Phone calls to the FBI office in Sacramento were not immediately returned.

A spokeswoman in the Placer County Sheriffand#8217;s Office Tahoe division confirmed at about 3:30 p.m. Monday officers had begun searching for a suspect.

Officials from PCSO, California Highway Patrol, California State Parks, Washoe County Sheriffand#8217;s Office and Nevada Highway Patrol were staged Friday afternoon along various areas of state routes 28 and 267 through Kings Beach and into Crystal Bay and Incline along Highway 28, combing neighborhoods, including throughout the and#8220;gridand#8221; in Kings Beach.

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Placer and Washoe officers thought they had a positive ID and stopped a maroon four-door sedan at about 3:45 p.m. at the corner of Village Boulevard and State Route 28 in Incline.

They put an elderly male and female in handcuffs and separated them into the backseat of separate sheriffand#8217;s SUVs before determining they were a couple visiting the area, releasing them at about 4 p.m.

and#8220;Unfortunately, these were not the folks we were looking for,and#8221; said PCSO Deputy Rick Schnoor.

The robbery is the sixth in the area since December. According to published reports, a robber hit Wells Fargo in Grass Valley, Calif., on Thursday, March 4, and two separate branches of the Bank of the West in Grass Valley were hit on Feb. 2 and Dec. 22.

In South Lake Tahoe, a man robbed a Bank of the West branch on Feb. 18, and the Wells Fargo bank inside the Raleyand#8217;s Supermarket in South Lake was robbed Feb. 10.

According to published reports, authorities suspect the same the person hit Bank of the West on Taylorville Road in Grass Valley on Dec. 22 and the South Lake Tahoe branch on Feb. 18. He is described as a white male wearing a fedora-type hat with a fake beard. Itand#8217;s unclear if they also suspect he robbed the Kings Beach branch Monday.

Anyone with information about Mondayand#8217;s robbery can contact PCSO in Tahoe at (530) 581-6300. Anyone with information into the Grass Valley robberies can contact the Nevada County Sheriffand#8217;s Office at (530) 477-4600. For the South Tahoe robberies, contact South Lake Tahoe Police Department at (530) 542-6110.

According to published reports, David Andrew Clarke, 44, of Grass Valley, was arrested Feb. 13 for the Feb. 2 Bank of the West heist on Brunswick Road in Grass Valley.

In Nevada County, there had only been three bank heists the five years prior to this most recent rash; bank and law enforcement officials said Friday the reasons why are unclear.

and#8220;Iand#8217;d like to have an explanation, but I donand#8217;t,and#8221; said Nevada County Sheriff Keith Royal. and#8220;It could be an indication of the economy or Nevada County being an opportunistic place.and#8221;

Across the country, bank robberies and#8220;may be up in some areas, but overall, thereand#8217;s been no significant increase, if any,and#8221; said Bill Carter, an FBI spokesman in Washington, D.C.

National bank robbery figures are relatively flat for 2005 and beyond, according to the FBI. There were 6,748 in 2005, 6,985 in 2006, 5,933 in 2007, and 6,700 in 2008.

The FBI only has national figures through the first nine months of 2009 and is still compiling last yearand#8217;s final quarter. The first three quarters showed 3,960 national bank robberies, well below the average of 4,935 for the first nine months of 2005 through 2008.

California figures from the FBI show 972 bank heists in 2005, 915 in 2006, 785 in 2007 and 912 in 2008. The state saw 623 in the first nine months of last year, which and#8212; again and#8212; was below the average of 666 for the first three quarters of 2005 through 2008.

At Bank of the West, and#8220;our experience of bank robberies is actually going down,and#8221; said Vice President for Communications John Stafford, although he had no hard statistics available.

Bank of the West has the same policy followed at most other banks and stores: Employees let robbers have what they want without any interference, Stafford said.

and#8212; Sun News Service Reporter Dave Moller contributed to this report.