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Police capture suspect in string of bank robberies

June 06, 2007|Greg Krikorian | Times Staff Writer

A man alleged to be one of the most successful Southern California bank robbers in recent years was arrested in Glendale on Tuesday as, authorities said, he attempted a getaway.

Authorities said the arrest of Alan Freibaum, 55, ended the four-county string of robberies of the "Irreconcilable Differences" bandit, so named by the FBI because he allegedly told a Beverly Hills teller during his first robbery that he was going through a divorce, before demanding money. That Dec. 22 incident was the first of 17 robberies.

Freibaum, wearing blue slacks and a tie, was arrested in a nearby parking structure shortly after noon as he fled a Wells Fargo bank on Brand Boulevard for his getaway car, said the FBI and Glendale police.

The Police Department had beefed up patrols along Brand Boulevard, home to most of Glendale's financial institutions, after the robber hit a Citibank last Friday, fleeing with $3,100.

"When the call came out today, we all knew it was the same guy," said Glendale Officer John Balian, a police spokesman. "And when our officer arrived at the bank, the employees were pointing and yelling, 'Thataway, thataway!' "

Though one of the busier bank robbers in recent years, the Irreconcilable Differences bandit was not as prolific as the so-called "Goofy Hat" bandit, who remains at large after 39 incidents over the last two years, the FBI said.

Long known as the bank robbery capital of the world, the Los Angeles region has seen a steady decline since the staggering rates of the early 1990s. In 1992, the region recorded more than 2,600 bank robberies, an average of one every hour of every business banking day, the FBI said.

A combination of better communication between federal and local authorities as well as stiffer federal sentencing laws have dramatically reduced the number of bank robberies in Los Angeles and elsewhere, authorities said. The tougher sentences include an additional five years for the use of a gun in a crime.

"Instead of going away to prison for a few years and then coming back, we now see the most serious bank robbers, in some cases, getting sentences of 30 to 40 years," FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said.

The Los Angeles region last year recorded 470 bank robberies; Chicago, which has seen an increase, recorded 284.

Eimiller said the Irreconcilable Differences robber has been linked to incidents in Los Angeles, Orange, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, with several robberies occurring on the same day.

As with his first alleged robbery, Freibaum, whose last known address was Marina del Rey, often allegedly told bank employees that he was having a hard time before handing over a note demanding money. In Beverly Hills, after allegedly divulging his divorce troubles, he reportedly asked for help transferring money so his wife's lawyer wouldn't be able to find out about the transaction.

Although he repeatedly told bank employees that he was armed, only one teller reported actually seeing a weapon. However, Eimiller said, the robber often carried a black pouch that the FBI believed may have carried a firearm.

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