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FBI believes Auburn bank robbery suspect is multi-state Bad Hair Bandit

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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A woman arrested Monday on a charge of robbing Auburn’s Bank of the West is believed by authorities to be the notorious “Bad Hair Bandit,” a suspect in a string of as many as 20 similar heists in Washington, Oregon and Montana. Placer County detectives identified Bad Hair Bandit suspect Cynthia Van Holland after examining evidence and surveillance photos, Lt. Mark Reed said Wednesday. And an FBI spokeswoman said that investigators in both Seattle and Sacramento believe Van Holland, 47, of Hayden, Idaho, is the same person responsible for up to 20 bank robberies across four states. Before Van Holland’s arrest Monday, the woman dubbed the Bad Hair Bandit by the FBI had struck the Bank of Butte in Butte, Mont. this past Friday. She is called the Bad Hair Bandit because of the wigs she has donned during holdups. Like the Auburn robbery at the Foresthill exit bank on Monday, the woman handed the teller a note demanding money and implied she had a gun, although no firearm was shown. Witnesses described the Butte bank robber as a white female about 40 years old with a heavy build. Reed said a joint investigation with the FBI was taking place regarding possible charges related to other robberies linked to the Bad Hair Bandit. Van Holland was arrested Monday without incident and is currently incarcerated in the Placer County Jail. Witnesses at the Raley’s plaza saw the woman robber go to the back of the bank building and get into a car that was later stopped by deputies about 12 miles west on Interstate 80 near Rocklin. The Sheriff’s Office is partly crediting the quick arrest to the assistance of a witness who gave deputies a vehicle description and possible license plate number. The Montana Standard newspaper reported Wednesday that Butte–Silver Bow Police investigators were working with the FBI to determine if there is a connection between Friday’s holdup, Monday’s robbery and the others attributed to the Bad Hair Bandit. Butte police Capt. Don Conway said the robbery Monday in Auburn matches Friday’s robbery in Butte in several ways. “The description of the suspect and the manner of operating are pretty similar to ours,” Conway told the Standard. “We’re not certain if it’s the same person or not but it’s very similar.” Ayn Dietrich, the FBI’s Seattle office media coordinator, said Wednesday that the Bad Hair Bandit typically waited in line as a customer before each robbery, then produced a note to a teller, in which she demanded cash and stated that she was armed. The series of Bad Hair Bandit robberies started with a holdup of a US Bank in Tacoma, Wash. last Dec. 22. Seventeen of the holdups took place in Washington state, with the Bad Hair Bandit moving farther afield only recently. The Key Bank in Lake Oswego, Ore. was struck July 1 and the Bank of Butte was robbed Aug. 11. Monday’s robbery in Auburn was the first attributed to the Bad Hair Bandit in California. Arrested with Van Holland after the Auburn holdup was 36-year-old Christopher Alonzo, also of Hayden, Idaho. Alonzo was identified as the suspected driver of the getaway car. Van Holland is being held in jail on $500,000 bail, while Alonzo’s bail is set at $50,000. Alonzo is being held on a no-bail warrant out of Idaho.