Accused 'Grandma Bandit' faces embezzlement charges

By: Penne Usher, Journal Staff Writer
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A Rocklin woman charged with bank robbery is also accused of embezzling from a former employer. Investigators report that she used the stolen money to pay personal debts. According to court documents filed March 5 with the U.S. District Court Eastern District Valerie Harris, 50, dubbed the Grandma Bandit by federal authorities, stole checks from Merry X-ray Chemical Corporation in Sacramento, altered them and deposited the funds into her own bank account. Additionally, Harris is suspected of robbing the U.S. Bank on Sunrise Avenue in Roseville at approximately 6 p.m. Dec. 12. The court document states that Harris stole more than $39,000 in checks from her employer and $1,243 from the bank by force. The defendant did assault and place in jeopardy the life of an employee ¦ by the use of a dangerous weapon, the court documents state. Federal authorities arrested Harris at her home in Rocklin after the FBI and its Sacramento Violent Crime Task Force uncovered information regarding Harris' attempt to pay a debt with stolen money, according to federal prosecutor Michelle Rodriguez. On the day of Harris' arrest, the FBI executed a federal search warrant on her home and reportedly recovered a Colt 454 cowboy style pistol. The gun was allegedly used and carried by Harris during commission of the bank robbery, according to a press release from the U.S. District Attorney's Office. Harris, who worked at Hall Enterprises on Lincoln Way in Auburn as a data specialist for more than two years prior to her Dec. 18 arrest, has pleaded not guilty to federal charges of bank robbery. She had been scheduled to return to federal court Monday. The matter has been continued for one week for a change of plea hearing, Rodriguez said Monday. Officials said that a woman described as an older white female wearing reading glasses and a dark hooded jacket demanded cash from a teller at the bank. She reportedly opened her purse and revealed what appeared to be a revolver-type handgun and told the teller to not make any moves, according to an FBI report. FBI spokesperson Steve Dupre said agents were able to identify Harris based on information provided by an anonymous tip along with details from the robbery. Following her arrest, Harris admitted to the robbery and cited financial hardships as her reasoning, Dupre has said. If convicted of the armed bank robbery offense, Harris faces up to 25 years in federal prison. Additionally, she has been charged with bank fraud. Harris is not related to Auburn's chief of police, Valerie Harris. The Journal's Penne Usher can be reached at penneu@goldcountrymedia. com or post a comment.