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FBI suspects arrested woman is "Bad Hair Bandit"

By Laura Zuckerman

SALMON, Idaho (Reuters) - The FBI suspects an Idaho woman jailed over a California heist is the "Bad Hair Bandit" wanted for 20 bank robberies and a judge set her bail on Thursday at $500,000 following her recent arrest.

A robber dubbed the "Bad Hair Bandit," named for her habit of wearing cheap, ill-fitting wigs, is believed to be behind 20 robberies in four states since December, authorities said.

They said Cynthia Van Holland, 47, was believed to be that person, although witnesses say she was not wearing a wig in the heist that led to her arrest,

Van Holland and her husband, Christopher Alonzo, 26, were arrested on Monday after Van Holland was accused of robbing the Bank of the West in Auburn, 30 miles northeast of Sacramento, before fleeing in a car driven by Alonzo, authorities said.

Placer County sheriff's deputies nabbed Van Holland and her husband a dozen miles from the Bank of the West after a witness gave the license plate and model of their car, said Ayn Sandalo Dietrich, spokeswoman for the FBI office in Seattle.

Van Holland and Alonzo, who are from the northern Idaho city of Hayden, were charged with robbery and conspiracy. Bond was set at $500,000 in a hearing held on Thursday in Placer County Superior Court in California.

The FBI's Dietrich said the Bad Hair Bandit's practice was to give a teller a note demanding money and claiming to be armed, and the robbery in Auburn had followed a similar pattern.

Agents investigating a string of bank robberies in Washington state and one robbery each in Montana, Oregon and California, believe Van Holland is the robber with the fake hair, Dietrich said.

"The wigs are really what stand out," she said.

Placer County Sheriff's Department spokeswoman Dena Erwin said Van Holland has "definitely been cooperating with detectives" and had provided enough clues for them to conclude she was the robber of bad hair fame.

But Bank of the West employees described Van Holland as not wearing a wig in the latest robbery, and they said her blond hair was pulled into a ponytail and covered by a ball cap at the time of the robbery, Erwin said.

"She was probably trying to keep everybody guessing," Erwin said.

The "Bad Hair Bandit" first struck in Tacoma, Washington, in December, according to an FBI statement. Agents said the bandit concentrated on Washington state banks until July, when she hit a bank in Oregon.

(Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis)

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