Cops searching for bandits who strapped fake bomb to bank employee

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by ABC NEWS

WHAS11.com

Posted on September 6, 2012 at 2:32 PM

(ABC NEWS) --  Authorities in California are searching for a pair of bandits who allegedly kidnapped a bank manager, strapped what they said were explosives to her stomach and ordered her to rob her own bank.

The robbers made off with a "significant" amount of money and police later determined that the device, though convincing, was a fake.

The victim described the suspects as "two black men, wearing ski-masks, and one had a handgun," according to the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department.

The woman was allegedly abducted on Tuesday night and held overnight, according to ABC News' Los Angeles affiliate KABC. She was taken to the Bank of America in East L.A. on the 900 block of South Atlantic Boulevard where she worked around 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday and instructed to rob it.

"A device was strapped to the woman's body," said Capt. Mike Parker of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. "She was told that it was explosives and she was ordered to go into the bank, take out all the money. She did do that in fear for her life."

"While she was inside the bank, there were other employees present. She explained to them what was happening," Parker said. "She took the money out of the bank and threw it out the door to the bank robbers."

The ski mask-wearing thieves fled with the money in a two-door car, possibly a white Kia, according to KABC.

The bank manager was left with the device on her and authorities called a bomb squad. Los Angeles County Sheriff's investigators and FBI agents, including bomb technicians, responded to the scene.

The device was removed from the woman and detonated by a bomb robot, according to authorities.

"A device left on the bank employee's person was rendered safe by a Sheriff's bomb squad and further investigation is ongoing, to include search for suspects," the FBI's L.A. office wrote in a statement.

The tactic of strapping bombs to people in order to extort or steal money has been tried before.

In August 2011, 18-year-old Madeleine Pulver of Australia was trapped in her house with a device around her neck that she was told was an explosive. She spent 10 hours attached to the device before it was determined to be fake.

Her father is the chief executive of a software company called Appen Butler Hill that specializes in voice recognition software, fueling speculation that she was the victim of an attempted extortion plot.

In 2003, a Pennsylvania pizza delivery man named Brian Wells was involved in a bomb plot and bank robbery that resulted in his own death. Wells thought he was an accomplice of the men planning the bank robbery and that the device strapped to him would be a fake.

Wells was instructed to rob the bank and tell police that the device was forced onto him and that he was a hostage. However, the bomb turned out to be real and killed Wells when it detonated.

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