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VENTURA COUNTY NEWS

2 Bank Branches in East Part of County Robbed

Crime: They bring to five the number of thefts in less than a month. Woman is a suspect in the Thousand Oaks incident. A man held up the Simi Valley site.

March 10, 2000|CATHERINE BLAKE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Two more banks were robbed Thursday, a morning heist in Thousand Oaks and an afternoon hit in Simi Valley, bringing to five the number of banks robbed in the east county in less than a month.

Hawthorne Savings on Westlake Boulevard in Thousand Oaks was hit for the second time in less than a month about 10:30 a.m. by a woman with strawberry blond hair, authorities said.

Police were looking for a man in his 30s in connection with the 3:30 p.m. robbery at First Western Bank on Sycamore Drive in Simi Valley.

The thefts did not appear to be connected, although both robbers carried a briefcase, said Brent Robbins, FBI special agent in Ventura. Robbins said the suspect in the Simi Valley robbery is possibly the same man who robbed a bank in the San Fernando Valley 90 minutes later.

Ventura County had eight bank robberies in 1999. So far this year, the county has had six.

Robbins said he has no idea why there has been a sudden rash of robberies, particularly in the east county. He discounted the theory that the banks are close to Los Angeles and major freeways.

"The Conejo Valley is no different than anywhere else," he said. "And you have a limited escape route because you have to go south or north."

In the Hawthorne Savings holdup, the woman stole an undisclosed amount of money after handing the teller a note that said, "Give me the money, I have a gun," according to Sheriff's Senior Deputy Ed Tumbleson.

There were four customers and six employees in the bank at the time, he said, adding that none of the customers was aware of the robbery.

The woman walked out of the bank and drove away, he said.

Tumbleson said that the woman had about a two-minute lead on police and that 12 officers and a helicopter scoured the area for about two hours looking for her.

Police are looking for a heavyset Caucasian woman about 5-foot-3 between 40 and 50. She was wearing a khaki-colored jacket and carrying a tan leather briefcase, officials said.

In the Simi Valley robbery, authorities are looking for a 5-foot-8 Caucasian male with light brown hair combed straight back and a light mustache. The bandit handed the teller a note and departed with a undisclosed amount of cash in his briefcase, officials said.

A gun was not seen in either robbery, authorities said.

The last time Hawthorne Savings was robbed--on Feb. 18--the male robber in his 20s was about 6-foot-1 with red hair and a slender build. He took off on foot.

Robbins said the bank is under construction but he did not know if additional security measures had been made since the February robbery.

Officials from both banks were not available for comment.

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