Jailed bank robbery suspect held on $290,000 bail

ID of Central Coast Bandit is not released, but county inmate Cristina Fernandez Padilla faces similar counts of robbery

sprovost@thetribunenews.comAugust 23, 2013 

A woman is in custody at County Jail in connection with the Central Coast Bandit case, the FBI confirmed Saturday, following a tip and police chase that ended with her arrest late Friday afternoon in Paso Robles.

The San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office was not releasing the name of the suspect Saturday, but a woman was booked into County Jail late Friday a few hours after an incident that began at Golden 1 Credit Union on Foothill Boulevard in San Luis Obispo. The counts against her on the Sheriff’s  Office booking log closely corresponded to accusations made in the Central Coast Bandit case.

Cristina Fernandez Padilla, 50, was booked at County Jail at 11:15 p.m. Friday on multiple counts, including a count of robbery in Pismo Beach, and one count of robbery each in Paso Robles, Atascadero and the jurisdiction of the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office.

A law enforcement source who asked not to be identified said Padilla is a resident of Watsonville. Padilla is described on the Sheriff’s Office booking site as 5 feet 
5 inches tall and weighing 170 pounds. Bail has been set at $290,000.

Two other counts were listed on the Sheriff’s Office booking log: assault with a deadly weapon other than a firearm (Paso Robles Police Department), and attempting to elude a pursuing peace officer in a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.

Sgt. Steve Odom of the Sheriff’s Office declined to confirm or deny the identity of the suspect, citing an ongoing investigation. “We’re not releasing anything until the investigation is complete,” he said, adding that information could be made public in the next couple of days.

The four robbery counts against Padilla match cities listed by the FBI in a news release sent out Friday afternoon, before the incident in Paso Robles, titled “Central Coast Bandit Still at Large.”

That release stated that “the same suspect has also attempted or committed the following robberies”:

• Monterey Credit Union in Pacific Grove on Dec. 31.

• Chase Bank in Atascadero on Feb. 14.

• Pacific Western Bank in Atascadero on Feb. 14.

• CoastHills Federal Cre-dit Union in Nipomo on June 27, 2013

• Golden 1 Credit Union in Paso Robles on July 16.

• Farmers and Merchants Bank in Modesto on July 18.

• Pacific Western Bank in Pismo Beach on Aug. 14.

Pismo Beach, Atascadero, Paso Robles and Nipomo (in unincorporated San Luis Obispo County) all correspond to locations listed in the FBI news release.

The suspect in the case was arrested Friday afternoon after a woman who fit her description entered the Golden 1 Credit Union on Foothill Boulevard in San Luis Obispo, Lt. Bill Proll of the San Luis Obispo Police Department said Friday.

The suspect fled when employees of the credit union notified police, Proll said. She then headed north on Highway 101, and San Luis Obispo authorities alerted police in the North County.

Atascadero police spotted the vehicle, and officers from that agency and the CHP gave chase. The car crashed in Paso Robles, and the woman was taken into custody, Proll said Friday.

Reports late Friday that the suspect was in FBI custody were incorrect, said Laura Eimiller, the FBI’s media spokeswoman in Los Angeles, who said the suspect was in the custody of local law enforcement.

“She’s suspected in the robberies linked to the Central Coast Bandit,” Eimiller said. “She’s not in federal custody at this point.”

Eimiller said the earliest the suspect could be in FBI custody would be Monday morning, and the woman would likely need to be taken to Los Angeles. The process of determining whether the suspect would remain in local custody or be turned over to the FBI was underway, she said.

“We work these jointly with the police,” she said. “Bank robbery is a violation of federal and state law. It’s about 50-50. Half of them are charged federally, and half are charged locally.”

The decision in the Central Coast Bandit case, she said, is complicated by the fact that robberies were reported in several jurisdictions, not only along the Central Coast, but also including one in Modesto.

“That’s a collective decision of all the agencies involved,” she said. “She robbed in multiple counties, so there are a lot of agencies who have to coordinate. That decision is being made as we speak.”

 

PREVIOUS REPORT: CENTRAL COAST BANDIT MAY HAVE BEEN CAUGHT

Police have arrested a woman who they think is the Central Coast Bandit, a serial bank robber believed to be responsible for six bank robberies in California since December.

According to Lt. Bill Proll of the San Luis Obispo Police Department, a woman who fit the description of the Central Coast Bandit entered the Golden 1 Credit Union on Foothill Boulevard late Friday afternoon.

“Alert employees recognized her and called the police,” he said. “She fled, and the employees got a vehicle description.”

The suspect headed north on Highway 101, and San Luis Obispo police initially gave chase but later called off the pursuit. They alerted police in the North County.

Atascadero police spotted the vehicle, and officers from that agency and the CHP gave chase. The car crashed in Paso Robles, and the woman was taken into custody, Proll said.

Because the woman is a suspect in multiple bank robberies, the FBI is handling the investigation. No other information was available Friday night.

The Central Coast Bandit is described as an overweight Hispanic or white woman in her 30s or 40s.

She is suspected in a string of robberies from Dec. 31 to Aug. 14 in Pacific Grove, Atascadero, Nipomo, Paso Robles, Modesto and Pismo Beach.

Before the latest incident, there had been 10 bank robberies in San Luis Obispo County this year. Last year, there were three.

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