A 64-year-old man who told police he robbed banks throughout the South Bay to pay his wife's medical bills was arraigned Friday. Abraham Irving Block of Manhattan Beach was arraigned in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles on one count of unarmed bank robbery a day after police arrested him in Redondo Beach. He was released on $25,000 bail raised with the help of relatives.
Block did not enter a plea at the arraignment. A preliminary hearing was scheduled for Jan. 3.
Block, suspected of committing a string of robberies in the South Bay, told police he had stolen $20,000 from 12 banks in Westchester, El Segundo, Torrance, Redondo Beach and West Los Angeles to pay his wife's medical expenses, police said.
"He had recently lost his job," Redondo Beach Police Lt. John Nelson, said. "Apparently bills for his wife's illness were coming in all at once . . . and he made the statement, 'Who's going to hire a 64-year-old man?' "
"It's a sad situation," said Nelson, adding that FBI and police investigators were trying to confirm that Block's wife is sick. But "a lot of people have bills to pay who find other means than robbing banks."
Block's wife and son, who attended the arraignment, refused to comment on the case. Block's attorney, Myra Sun, told U.S. Magistrate Robert M. Stone that she had evidence that Block's wife "suffers from a severe illness," which would shed "a lot of light on the alleged crime."
Police and the FBI had coined the name "LAX Senior Bandit" to describe the elusive suspect who robbed banks over a seven-month period using a plastic revolver to threaten tellers and a 1975 BMW as his getaway car, Nelson said.
The robber would pull his coat back, Nelson said, revealing the toy gun in his waistband, demand money in large bills and then walk out. "No acts of violence," Nelson said. "He'd just walk in and leave."
Thursday morning, Block was driving away after allegedly robbing a Home Savings of America branch in Redondo Beach when a witness took down his license plate number, Nelson said. Block then drove to South Bay Bank in Torrance and committed another robbery, he said.
By then his description had been broadcast over the police radio to officers throughout the South Bay. An officer patrolling the South Bay Galleria saw Block near a Bank of America in Redondo Beach, Nelson said. Officers pulled him over and arrested him. A plastic revolver was found in the car, along with an unspecified amount of money jammed between the front seats, police said.
"He said he was just in the area trying to blend in with the crowd, trying to count his money and see if he had enough," Nelson said.