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Tri-Cities bandit pleads guilty

Man who robbed several local banks faces up to 10 years in prison.

December 07, 2011|By Veronica Rocha, veronica.rocha@latimes.com

A 39-year-old man known as the Tri-Cities bandit pleaded guilty Tuesday to robbing banks in several cities, including Glendale, Burbank and Pasadena, officials said.

Ernest Viana, 39, accepted a plea agreement, which required him to enter his guilty plea in a U.S. District Court in Los Angeles to six federal counts of bank robbery and using force or intimidation to steal, FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said.

Viana’s co-defendant, alleged getaway driver Oleg Gorokhovsky, 42, remains in custody, and his case is still pending, she added.

Viana was dubbed the Tri-Cities bandit following a series of robberies in Glendale, Burbank and Pasadena within a month, officials said. He robbed 12 banks, including three in Glendale, two in Pasadena and one in Burbank until he was finally nabbed on Aug. 19.

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In the Glendale robbery, he stole $6,050 in cash on July 20 from a Wells Fargo bank in the 500 block of North Brand Boulevard.

Viana also passed a demand note on Aug. 17 to a teller at Bank of the West in the 2500 block of East Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena, according to a court plea agreement. In that robbery, he stole $900.

He was later linked to bank robberies in Tarzana, Brentwood, Chino Hills, Los Angeles and La Verne, according to the FBI.

In most robberies, he passed the bank teller a note demanding cash and was seen fleeing the area in a white Volkswagen Passat, according to the FBI.

Viana faces a maximum sentence of 125 months in prison and a fine of no more than $22,229, but the agreement must still be finalized by a judge, according to the court plea agreement.

Viana’s sentencing was set for March 12 in U.S. District Court.

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