Robbery suspect arrested

March 2, 2009

By Warren Kagarise

The “Buck Tooth Bandit” robbed three Eastside banks in 10 days, leaving a trail of video surveillance footage and witnesses as the FBI built a case against him. Agents caught up with the bandit less than a week after he robbed an Issaquah bank, following a heist in which the robber left the scene in a Lincoln Town Car — with vanity license plates.

A Kirkland man, Francisco Cardona, 28, was identified by the FBI as the “Buck Tooth Bandit” and is being held at the King County Jail. Authorities say they believe Cardona is responsible for the Feb. 17 heist at a Washington Mutual branch, 1195 N.W. Gilman Blvd, and robberies in Kirkland and Sammamish. 

In Sammamish, where a Bank of America branch was robbed just after 1 p.m. Feb. 23, a bank employee jotted down the license plate number after seeing the suspect climb into a white Lincoln Town Car. Authorities tracked down the owner of the vehicle and then Cardona.

Turns out, the Lincoln was part of a car service; authorities said the suspect worked for the service and dropped off a client before the Sammamish robbery. 

Kirkland police and the FBI arrested Cardona the evening of Feb. 23. He confessed to the robberies, FBI Special Agent Larry Carr wrote in an e-mail message to Sammamish police.

The “Buck Tooth Bandit” had a penchant for flashy cars. Surveillance footage from the Issaquah robbery shows a man flashing a handgun to a bank teller. He then fled in a red Ford Mustang with tricked-out rims, taking an undisclosed amount of cash with him. The thief had also hopped into a red Mustang following a Feb. 13 hold-up at a Kirkland U.S. Bank branch.

Robbie Burrows, a spokeswoman for the FBI’s Seattle field office, said the Sammamish robbery unfolded in a similar manner. Working from a description provided by the FBI, bank employees were on the lookout for a man matching the description of the Kirkland and Issaquah suspect.

“He fit the description of the robber right down to the buck teeth,” Burroughs said.

Just after 1 p.m. Feb. 23, a man approached a teller at the Sammamish Bank of America, displayed a handgun and handed the teller a note demanding money. The bank closed its doors after the suspect fled. A sign taped to the glass front entrance announced the shutdown: “We were recently robbed. The drive up is open. The banking center will reopen at 4:15.”

No shots were fired during any of the robberies and no injuries were reported.

Sammamish Police Chief Brad Thompson honored the bank employee who wrote down the license plate number on the getaway car. Police and the FBI lauded the Bank of America employees for their efforts to help arrest the suspect.

“Remember, bank robbery is not the price of doing business, it’s the cost of doing nothing,” Carr wrote.

Reach Reporter Warren Kagarise at 392-6434, ext. 234, or wkagarise@isspress.com. Comment on this story at www.issaquahpress.com.

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