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Bad Hair Bandit suspect arraigned for Auburn, 20 other bank robberies

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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AUBURN CA - The other shoe dropped Friday in U.S. District Court for a woman who the FBI believes is the ?Bad Hair Bandit? suspected of robbing 21 banks in four states. Cynthia Van Holland, 48, was arraigned on 21 counts of bank robbery and pleaded not guilty to all charges in a Sacramento courtroom appearance. Van Holland has been held in Placer County Jail since last Aug. 15 after she was arrested in Rocklin on a robbery charge connected with a holdup earlier in the day at Lincoln Way?s Bank of the West, at the Interstate 80 Foresthill exit. Van Holland has pleaded not guilty in Placer Superior Court to the single robbery charge and is to make her next appearance Aug. 2. Friday?s appearance in Sacramento?s Eastern District Court before Judge Kendall Newman upped the ante on crimes authorities allege occur in four different states and five different federal districts. During the early stages of the investigation, the Seattle Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation dubbed the perpetrator the ?Bad Hair Bandit? because she used a series of unusual wigs and disguises during robberies. Placer County District Attorney Scott Owens said Friday that the Placer County Sheriff?s Office deserves praise for its arrest of the suspect. ?I want to commend the rapid response and diligence of the Placer County Sheriff?s Office following the Auburn robbery, for their work in quickly locating and arresting this pair of robbers and putting an end to their crime spree,? Owens said. An alleged accomplice, Van Holland?s husband, was also arrested on the robbery charge. A homeless family was also credited with collaring the Bad Hair Bandit suspect, by reporting the getaway from the rear of the Auburn bank and providing a description of the suspect car. After her arrest, FBI investigators filed an affidavit claiming that Van Holland confessed to a nine-month hold-up spree. The list of banks included a foray into the Auburn area in June and August, when Van Holland allegedly robbed financial institutions in Davis and Sacramento, as well as Auburn. During a court appearance in Auburn last month, Van Holland?s hair was noticeably whiter and less neatly styled than in the jail booking photo taken last August after her arrest. Van Holland and her husband, 26-year-old Christopher Alonzo, both of Idaho, were stopped and arrested 12 miles west of the Auburn bank as they drove along Interstate 80 at Rocklin. The Steele-Silveira family parked in Auburn?s Raley?s shopping center had watched the two flee from behind the bank and alerted law enforcement. Authorities said about $8,000 in loot was found in a Victoria?s Secret bag in the passenger compartment of the Van Holland vehicle. The story of the arrest of a woman ?bad hair? bank robber drew national and international media attention. Van Holland is being held on federal ?no bail? hold in Placer County. The convoluted, cross-jurisdictional case was a challenge to authorities. ?This investigation and prosecution underscores the FBI?s commitment to working interstate violent crimes in a highly professional and coordinated effort,? said FBI Special Agent in Charge Herbert Brown. ?The many state and federal law enforcement agencies that collaborated in this investigation are to be commended,? Brown said. Bad Hair Bandit holdups Here is the list of banks the FBI suspects the Bad Hair Bandit has robbed: Dec. 22, 2010 US Bank, Tacoma, Wash. $2,072 Jan. 15, 2011 Key Bank, Tumwater, Wash. $1,285 Jan. 12, 2011 Key Bank, Tacoma, Wash. $1,214 Jan. 14, 2011 Wells Fargo Bank, Spanaway, Wash. $1,050 Jan. 26, 2011 Cathay Bank, Kent, Wash. No money taken Jan. 27, 2011 First Security Bank, Redmond, Wash. $441 Feb. 10, 2011 US Bank, Auburn, Wash. $995 Feb. 19, 2011 Wells Fargo Bank, University Place, Wash. $332 March 25, 2011 Sound Community Bank, Tacoma, Wash. $1,960 April 9, 2011 Wells Fargo Bank, University Place, Wash. $440 April 21, 2011 Cathay Bank, Bellevue, Wash. $2,330 April 26, 2011 Wheatland Bank, Ellensburg, Wash. $714 April 27, 2011 Key Bank, Moses Lake, Wash. $2,398 May 9, 2011 Chase Bank, Spokane, Wash. $1,920 June 7, 2011 Sterling Bank, Moses Lake, Wash. $6,384 June 28, 2011 East West Bank, Sacramento $671 June 28, 2011 US Bank, Davis $1,967 July 1, 2011 Key Bank, Lake Oswego, Ore. $1,600 July 18, 2011 Yakima Federal, Richland, Wash. $3,152 Aug. 11, 2011 Bank of Butte, Butte, Mont. $1,600 Aug. 15, 2011 Bank of the West, Auburn $8,722 Total: $41,247 Source: FBI