The San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office confirmed Monday that inmate Cristina Fernandez Padilla, 50, of Watsonville is suspected of being the Central Coast Bandit responsible for six bank robberies in San Luis Obispo, Monterey and Stanislaus counties since December.
Padilla was arrested late Friday in Paso Robles after a police chase that began with an apparent botched robbery attempt at Golden 1 Credit Union in San Luis Obispo.
Just before 5 p.m. Friday, a woman matching the description of the Central Coast Bandit entered the credit union — but she was recognized and left, according to a news release Monday.
Her vehicle description and license plate were provided to the San Luis Obispo Police Department, which attempted to stop the vehicle, but the driver fled north on Highway 101.
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San Luis Obispo police pursued her to the top of Cuesta Grade, and the Atascadero Police Department began a second pursuit through Atascadero, at times leaving Highway 101 and entering surface streets and parking lots, the release said.
The driver continued north, and the CHP took over in a pursuit that reached high speeds on surface streets of Paso Robles and included an intentional ramming of a civilian car with a person inside it near 24th Street and Riverside Avenue. The pursuit ended in a collision near 35th and Pine streets.
The driver, Padilla, was charged on multiple counts, including a count of robbery in Pismo Beach, and one count of robbery each in Paso Robles, Atascadero and Nipomo. Two other counts were listed on the 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.
Search warrants were served on Padilla’s residence and vehicle in Watsonville, as well as the vehicle she was driving at the time of her arrest.
Padilla is being held in jail in lieu of $290,000 bail.
Central Coast Bandit's heists
The Central Coast Bandit has been linked to the following bank robberies:
Note: In addition, just before robbing Pacific Western Bank on Feb. 14, the bandit walked into Chase Bank at 8055 El Camino Real in Atascadero, checked it out and left.