Five years after his last reputed heist, could the Geezer Bandit have surfaced at a San Marcos Chase Bank around 5 p.m. Friday, June 3 armed with a money-demand note, black box he said was a bomb and a handgun?
No telling, at least for now as Michael Lehman, 81, was arrested on suspicion of attempted robbery and terroristic threats, among other charges, on Palomar Airport Road at El Camino Real, a few miles from the Chase branch at 1921 W. San Marcos Blvd.
Lehman had casually walked out of the bank with an undisclosed amount of cash, got in a silver Toyota sedan and headed west. A bank employee jotted down a partial license plate number. Acting on that information, Carlsbad police apprehended Lehman about 15 minutes later.
Described as a white male in his 70’s, the Geezer Bandit went bank robbery hog wild from August 2009 to December 2011. He hit 16 bank branches similar to the San Marcos Chase from Santee to San Luis Obispo, 11 of them in San Diego County.
The Geezer hit Vista banks twice, Rancho Santa Fe banks twice, and Poway around North County locations. Then, he stopped, never to be heard from again.
Rumors have circulated to the effect the bandit was a retiree living at a Valley Center or Escondido mobile home park who died of natural causes around 2013.
Speculation changed direction just before Thanksgiving last year when a thin, unshaven man around 70 years old robbed a Ramona Bank of America branch on Main Street. However, FBI investigators said that man was shorter than the Geezer and not a match.
What about Lehman, with a possible expired Facebook page saying he attended Rutgers University about 55 years ago, was married with several grandchildren and retired to the San Diego area in 2000?
Contrast and compare.
The FBI described the Geezer Bandit as a white male, approximately 6-feet tall, 190 pounds, average build. He typically wore a navy colored blazer, navy or black colored baseball cap, and dark colored clothing. He tended to wear layers of clothing. He packed a revolver pistol, and was believed to be dangerous although he never used the weapon.
The Bandit also lugged around a planner book from which he extracted the demand note as well as an oxygen tank on one occasion. He never was in a hurry, always leaving casually and driving away carefully. Until his 16th, and final robbery, that is, during which he made several mistakes, dropped the note and red dye-stained cash, and ran off into the good day.
Friday’s attempt showed some of the Geezer panache, brazen and in the bank teller’s face. However, Lehman didn’t wear a disguise although he brandished a handgun in old school Geezer fashion along with a black box he said contained a bomb. A photo of him being arrested Friday showed a man in a tan coat, a far cry from Geezer black, but of similar build.
The Sheriff’s Bomb Arson Unit examined the bomb device determining it to be a prop and hoax. Authorities said Lehman was positively identified as the robber by witnesses and was taken into custody by investigators with the San Marcos sheriff’s station and the FBI.
“A further search of the vehicle did yield a handgun on the passenger seat as well as cash believed to have been taken in the robbery,” Carlsbad police Lt. Jason Jackowski said.
There were no reports of injuries related to this incident, according to San Marcos sheriff’s Sgt. Conrad Berlinsky. San Marcos Station Detectives were continuing the on-going investigation, he said.
Call Crime Stoppers at (888) 580-8477 with information and you will remain anonymous, Belinsky said, adding, you may be eligible for up to a $1,000 reward for information leading to a felony arrest.
As for the Geezer Bandit connection, the case remains open. As always,anyone with information pertaining to the Geezer Bandit should contact FBI Special Agent Darrell Foxworth at (858) 320-8302 or the FBI general number at (858) 565-1255. The FBI still has a $20,000 reward up for grabs for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the “Geezer Bandit.”
The Geezer Bandit, according to the FBI, was believed to be responsible for robbing the following banks:
|August 28, 2009, Friday, 11:47 a.m.||US Bank||9643 Mission Gorge Road, Santee, CA|
|September 12, 2009, Saturday, 10:10 a.m.||San Diego National Bank||7877 Ivanhoe, La Jolla, CA|
|October 9, 2009, Friday, 2:07 p.m.||US Bank||4627 Carmel Mountain Road, San Diego, CA|
|October 26, 2009, Monday, 10:04 a.m.||Bank of America||17008 Avenida de Acacias, Rancho Santa Fe, CA|
|November 16, 2009, Monday, 5:54 p.m.||Bank of America||7680 Girard Avenue, La Jolla, CA|
|January 27, 2010, Wednesday, 5:50 p.m.||San Diego National Bank||1075 Rosecrans, San Diego, CA|
|April 20, 2010, Tuesday, 9:10 a.m.||California Bank and Trust||140 Escondido Avenue, Vista, CA|
|April 30, 2010, Friday, 2:14 p.m.||US Bank||1301 East Vista Way, Vista, CA|
|May 11, 2010, Tuesday, 9:45 a.m.||Bank of America||9711 Mission Gorge Road, Santee, CA|
|June 7, 2010, Monday, 2:55 p.m.||US Bank||14837 Pomerado Road, Poway, CA|
|June 24, 2010, Thursday, 1:15 p.m.||Bank of America||31934 Highway 79 South, Temecula, CA|
|November 12, 2010, Friday, 6:00 p.m.||Bank of America||4480 Coffee Road, Bakersfield, CA|
|January 28, 2011, Friday, 5:55 p.m.||Bank of America||5892 Calle Real, Goleta, CA|
|May 27, 2011, Friday, 2:17 p.m.||Heritage Oaks Bank||310 Morro Bay Boulevard, Morro Bay, CA|
|September 30, 2011, Friday, 6:34 p.m.||Wells Fargo Bank||7544 Girard Avenue, La Jolla, CA|