A string of carefully timed, precision takeover bank robberies in the Seattle area last year might have been the work of a sophisticated gang from Los Angeles.
Agents with the FBI South Gang Task Force arrested five people Thursday, suspected members of a gang that investigators think has been using the same methods since the 1990s. The FBI thinks the robbers, members of an L.A. street gang called the "Four-Tre Crips," targeted banks without guards or teller barriers and used stolen cars and rental cars to make their getaways.
They're usually in and out of the bank within two minutes, "entering banks in groups, covered head to toe in loose clothing and gloves, covering up all their appearance and demanding money while jumping over teller counters," said FBI spokeswoman Ayn Dietrich in Seattle.
Charged by complaint in U.S. District Court in Seattle with one count of conspiracy and three counts of bank robbery are Anthony Mosely, Charles Williams, Kevin Brown, Curtis Smith, Douglas Smith, Jeanine Daniels and Janalisa Estrada. Two of the suspects, Williams and Estrada, both from L.A., are not yet in custody.
The FBI in Seattle has been tracking the robbers since last fall and got a tip from authorities in Michigan about bank robbers using similar methods there. Evidence was gathered that the gang might take buses back to Los Angeles shortly after a hold-up. An employee at the Olympia Greyhound station alerted the FBI that a group of people had come in without luggage and tried to buy one-way tickets to L.A. but were turned down because the bus was full, said Dietrich. Instead, they bought tickets for the next day.
"We (had) worked with Greyhound to try to learn about whether there were people matching the description of the people we were looking for and we were waiting when they came to catch a bus back to Los Angeles," said Dietrich.
Five suspects were arrested Dec. 22nd, including four L.A. residents and a man from Tacoma, Mosley. Investigators believe Mosely, 46, hosted the L.A. gang members in his house during the period of the robberies.
According to the complaint, it's believed the same gang of robbers is responsible for a bank hold-up in Lakewood in September, another bank robbery in Seattle in October and a third bank job in Kirkland in December, two days before the arrests at the Olympia bus station.
Investigators believe the bank robbing gang has been operating in Washington, Michigan, Ohio and possibly other states. Dietrich says the five suspects were originally held on state bank robbery charges and then re-arrested Thursday on the federal complaint.