'Plain Jane Bandit' suspect arrested near Downey residence


Authorities have identified the alleged serial bank robber as 38-year-old Sylvia Helen Garcia. The FBI received numerous tips and took Garcia into custody at her Downey home late Thursday.

"She was a little more brazen than the average bank robber. She was aggressive," said Laura Eimiller with the FBI.

The 38-year-old lived in a Downey apartment, neighbors say, with her husband and three kids.

"I'm really shocked and surprised that we would have somebody like that living in this building, and it's a small complex," said a neighbor, who did not give their name.

When a man in the unit confirmed to ABC7 that Garcia lived there, he then escaped out a back window with two kids.

The "Plain Jane Bandit" struck eight banks in Riverside, Los Angeles and Orange counties, within three weeks, including banks in Cerritos, Downey, Santa Fe Springs, Whittier, Buena Park, Wildomar and two locations in Moreno Valley. During the latest heist in Cerritos on Tuesday, the suspect left before getting any money.

The FBI said the suspect used the same method every time. She would walk into a bank, and show the teller a note asking for cash. She also indicated that a second person was waiting for her outside the bank, but no accomplice was ever seen.

"The suspect would demand cash, in some cases she would ask for specific amounts: $500, $800. She also passed a note, which was described by most of the victim tellers as illegible," said Eimiller.

She was dubbed the "Plain Jane Bandit" because witnesses described her appearance as plain-looking.

"I know you gotta do what you gotta do, but there's ways, you gotta work, there's no reason for that. That's the way I see it. There's so many funds, there's so many ways you can support your family," said neighbor Wilene Schlehner.

Authorities haven't ruled out the possibility Garcia was working with someone, but also they don't have any other suspects at this point.

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