A 50-year-old mother, dubbed the Central Coast Bandit, has been charged with 13 counts of felony robbery and burglary in association with a string of bank robberies in San Luis Obispo County.
Cristina Fernandez Padilla of Watsonville is scheduled to appear in San Luis Obispo Superior Court on Wednesday morning for her initial arraignment. Police say Padilla matched the description of a woman who robbed banks in Atascadero, Nipomo, Paso Robles, Pismo Beach, San Luis Obispo, Modesto and Pacific Grove.
According to a police synopsis of the case, Padilla walked into the Golden 1 Credit Union in San Luis Obispo on Aug. 23 and asked a teller for coin rolls. As the teller turned to retrieve the rolls from the back of the bank, he activated his hold-up alarm, having recognized her from wanted posters.
Padilla left the bank in a Chevy Malibu, police said. Later, when San Luis Obispo police attempted to stop the car, Padilla continued to flee until striking another vehicle in Paso Robles.
Padilla, often shown smiling in images from bank surveillance videos, has two daughters, one 11 years old and another who's an adult.
According to court records, Padilla has a prior burglary conviction from Monterey County. That conviction, from 2005, could count as a prior “strike” felony, leading to enhanced sentencing if convicted of the bank robberies.