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Man Held in Holdups at Check-Cashing Stores

The parolee is a suspect in 18 robberies, some of which were violent.

June 03, 2003|Richard Winton and Andrew Blankstein | Times Staff Writers

Los Angeles police detectives have arrested a parolee they believe is the "check-cashing bandit," responsible for 18 armed and often violent robberies at check establishments.

Jeffery Bryant, 40, was arrested Saturday on suspicion of robbery and violating his parole -- a day after an aborted robbery in which he was recognized by a clerk he had allegedly robbed before, police said. He was being held in lieu of $2 million bail.

An alleged accomplice, Charles Wesley Griffis, 20, was arrested at the check-cashing business in the 1000 block of North Western Avenue on suspicion of robbery and held on $315,000 bail, said Lt. Jim Grayson of the Los Angeles Police Department's Robbery-Homicide Division.

Bryant bolted from the scene, leaving Griffis, after a cashier recognized him, police said. Authorities alleged that Bryant had pistol-whipped the woman in an earlier robbery at another establishment. The woman transferred to the Hollywood store after the incident.

"As their eyes locked, he realized this was one of his previous victims," Grayson said. "And she recognized him and he ran out, leaving his confused accomplice in the lobby."

Bryant allegedly disguised himself as a postal worker delivering a fake express mail package to bypass security at the check-cashing establishments. Griffis pretended to be a security guard accompanying him on the important delivery, police said.

Once inside, Bryant pulled a handgun and demanded cash, Grayson said. In one holdup, when Bryant could not gain access to the check-cashing business' back room, he allegedly turned his weapon on a 5-year-old who was with an adult, police said.

Grayson said Bryant told the cashier: "Momma, I would hate to do it, but if you don't open the door I'll shoot her."

Grayson said the "checkcashing bandit" began targeting check-cashing businesses in August 2002. He is believed to have committed 15 heists and attempted three others. Businesses in South Los Angeles, the central city area, Wilshire corridor and West Los Angeles were targeted.

Bryant was paroled in August 2000 after serving five years of a seven-year sentence for petty thief with priors, according to California Department of Corrections records. Bryant previously had been sentenced to three other terms for robbery and attempted robbery.

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