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Immigration Rights Activist Alleged 'Mesh Mask Bandit'

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - Hispanic leaders in North Texas are stunned that an accused serial bank robber was once one of their own. Luis Delagarza was arrested for the April robbery of a Wells Fargo Bank, but an FBI Task Force also identified him as the 'Mesh Mask Bandit' whose hit 19 banks since New Year's Eve. The 'Mesh Mask Bandit' robbed most of his banks in the Carrollton-Farmers Branch-North Dallas area. But they are also just a few blocks away from Delagarza's home in Farmers Branch, in a community where he made a name for himself pushing for immigration rights. His arrest has left fellow activists, such as Carlos Quintanilla, in shock.

"Luis Delagarza robbed banks, I guess, to deal with his demons, and that's a sad story," Quintanilla told CBS 11. Latinos in North Texas may remember Delagarza as an organizer of protests and marches for immigration rights, like one in Irving in 2007. "So he did some amazing things as a community leader, as a businessman, and all of that was just poisoned by him becoming a serial bank robber," according to Quintanilla.

So what led this activist to become an accused armed robber? Quintanilla claims Delagarza has a gambling addiction. "I think he had a problem with gambling," according to Quintanilla, who added, "I think the casinos got the best of him. I think he became very indebted. I think he became so indebted that he had to do this."

Others agree he had money problems. Speaking by phone from a LULAC national convention in Las Vegas, educator and politician Rene Martinez told CBS 11 Delagarza had not been active for 3-4 years and had borrowed money. While he is shocked by the arrest, Martinez insists any alleged criminal actions are those of an individual, not Hispanic rights supporters. Quintanilla agrees. "I think what Luis Delagarza did, he did as an individual and not as a representative of our community," said Quintanilla adding, "We're in shock. We're in severe shock because that was not his personality. I would hope that people would not assimilate Luis Delagarza's failure with our community's desire to move forward."

Delagarza is in federal custody and has yet to give CBS 11 his version of events. He had an initial court appearance Friday and is set to return to court on Tuesday.

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