FBI Nabs Its "Plain Jane Bandit" Suspect

Sylvia Helen Garcia, 38, of Downey was arrested late Thursday

By Melissa Pamer
|  Friday, Aug 3, 2012  |  Updated 8:55 PM PDT
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Sylvia Helen Garcia was arrested Wednesday night near her home in Downey. The FBI believes the mother of three may be linked to eight bank robberies or attempted robberies. Angie Crouch reports from Downey for the NBC4 News at 6 p.m. on August 3, 2012.

Angie Crouch

Sylvia Helen Garcia was arrested Wednesday night near her home in Downey. The FBI believes the mother of three may be linked to eight bank robberies or attempted robberies. Angie Crouch reports from Downey for the NBC4 News at 6 p.m. on August 3, 2012.

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Federal officials say they have arrested the woman suspected of being the "Plain Jane Bandit," a name given to a bank robber who struck eight Southern California banks in three weeks.

Sylvia Helen Garcia, 38, of Downey was arrested near her home at about 5:30 p.m. Thursday after the FBI received a tip, according to Laura Eimiller, a spokeswoman for the bureau's Los Angeles field office.

Garcia was arrested as she was driving a silver car that matched the description of the getaway vehicle used in several robberties, the Federal Bureau of Investigation said in a press release Friday evening.

When media responded to Garcia's apartment Friday afternoon, a man thought to be her husband left the residence with his head covered in a pink-checked towel. He joined two teenage children in a waiting pickup truck.

Neighbors said Garcia's husband manages the apartment building where the family lives. They said Garcia did resemble the woman in surveillance video from the bank robberies. 

Additional evidence tying Garcia to the incidents was recovered during the arrest, authorities said.

FBI agents, sheriff's deputies and police from several cities were still investigating, Eimiller said.

The prolific bank robber -- who was described as a nondescript woman in her late 30s who drew little attention to herself -- last struck Tuesday at a Chase bank in Cerritos. The same robber is suspected in six incidents and two attempted robberies in Los Angeles, Orange and Riverside counties.

The robbery streak began July 12 with an incident in Santa Fe Springs. Robberies followed in Whittier, Moreno Valley, Buena Park, Wildomar and, finally, in Cerritos. Two attempted robberies occurred in Moreno Valley and Downey, the FBI said.

U.S. Bancorp was offering a $10,000 reward for her capture. Five of the eight locations the robber was suspected of targeting were U.S. Bank branches.

Garcia was being held by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department's Lakewood Station, according to online inmate records.

Her initial court hearing is Monday at Bellflower Superior Court. She's expected to be charged with bank robbery.

Federal officials had speculated the Plain Jane Bandit had an addiction to her crime.

"Usually when someone robs at that rate, they have an addiction," said Stephen May, the FBI’s bank robbery coordinator, earlier this week. "The amount of money she is getting is not at all. And that may be another reason she is robbing at the rate she is going at."

Authorities had said Plain Jane’s usual modus operandi is to present an illegible demand note to the teller and claim to have an accomplice out of view. The FBI said in some cases the robber demanded specific amounts of "several hundred dollars."

NBC4's Angie Crouch contributed to this report.

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