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FBI investigates Calif. bank heist, alleged kidnap as possible "copycat" case

Michelle Renee and her daughter, Breea.
Michelle Renee and her daughter, Breea. Michelle Renee

(CBS/AP/KCBS) LOS ANGELES - A California bank heist last Wednesday in which a Bank of America manager says she was told to strap what she believed was a bomb to her midsection and forced to order employees to "take out all the money" from her branch bears a striking resemblance to another bank robbery over a decade ago - a resemblance authorities are investigating.

48 Hours Full Episode: "Show Me the Money"

In November of 2000, Michelle Renee told police she was kidnapped at her home, along with her 7-year-old daughter Breea and their adult roommate Kimbra, strapped with a fake bomb and forced to take $360,000 from the Bank of America branch she managed in Vista. Her story was detailed in the "48 Hours Mystery" episode "Show Me the Money."

The FBI tells CBS Los Angeles that it is looking into similarities between the two bank robberies involving kidnapped bank managers and what were both revealed to be inert bombs. Using a bank manager to rob their own business is rare, authorities said, let alone strap a purported explosive device to an unwilling victim.

"I immediately thought, 'This can't be happening again,'" Renee said about last week's robbery in an interview with CBS Los Angeles.

The bank manager was snatched in front of her home Wednesday morning, said sheriff's Capt. Mike Parker. She arrived at her workplace wearing the device. Two masked gunmen got away with an undisclosed amount of cash from the Bank of America when it opened Wednesday morning, but no one was injured in the robbery.

Renee told the station that she sympathizes with the Los Angeles branch manager, recalling the fear, police interrogations and endless questions that characterized her own case.

"It is possible that this could have been an inside job, but they thought the same thing of me," says Renee, who was home with a young daughter at the time she was abducted. "I robbed the bank to save our lives."

Although Renee was never formally accused in the robbery of her own bank, police investigated the possibility that she was involved. 

Investigators initially said they didn't believe the manager in Wednesday's robbery knew the robbers but they have conducted interviews to ensure she wasn't connected to the crime.

Authorities haven't said how the bank manager was targeted by the robbers. Investigators are trying to determine if there were any video surveillance cameras that captured the incident.

Law enforcement sources, who were not named, told the Los Angeles Times that the similarity between last week's case and the 2000 robbery is only one of several potential leads or angles they are pursuing.

Three of the perpetrators of the 2000 incident are serving life sentences, while another suspect was acquitted after a judge threw out her confession.

More on Crimesider
September 6, 2012 - Bank of America Heist: Calif. bank manager kidnapped, strapped to bomb and used in robbery, police say

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