MADISON, Wis. - Two people have been arrested and charged with six bank robberies in the Madison, Middleton and Janesville areas.
Michael Benike, 29, of Madison, and Tara Thousand, 25, of Mt. Horeb, were arrested Friday by FBI agents, along with police officers from the Madison and Mount Horeb police departments.
In a criminal complaint, police said the pair "knowingly took by force and violence, and by intimidation, money" from six banks over the last few months.
The complaint said this pair robbed Associated Bank on Allen Boulevard in Middleton on May 9, Associated Bank on West Broadway in Madison on May 14, Anchor Bank on Holiday Drive in Janesville on May 19, M&I Bank on Mineral Point Road in Madison on May 23, Anchor Bank on South Westfield Road in Madison on June 6 and Home Savings on Mineral Point Road in Madison on June 8.
The criminal complaint said security footage from various banks showed a man, about 5 feet 8 inches to 5 feet 10 inches tall with a slender build between the ages of 25 and 35 committed the robberies.
"The suspect typically wore a hat, sunglasses and a long sleeve shirt and handed a note to the teller saying that he has a gun. The suspect would then ask for $50's and $100's," stated the complaint. "Several eyewitness reports and tips described a white female driving the vehicle in which the robber escapes. Surveillance cameras from several of the banks showed a silver Toyota Corolla, with a sun roof and apparent missing license plates, being used by the suspect."
The criminal complaint illustrated how law enforcement was able to narrow down the field of suspects.
"Law enforcement consulted with Toyota dealerships in Madison, Wis., and Dubuque, Iowa, and concluded that the Toyota Corolla is likely a 2003 to 2008 LE model with a sunroof. A Wisconsin Department of Transportation query for all 2003 to 2008 Toyota Corollas in Dane County resulted in a total of 5,700 registered vehicles. Of those 5,700 vehicles, 1,300 were silver. Of those 1,300 vehicles, 49 had factory installed sunroofs. Of those 49 registered drivers, only one person, Tara Thousand, had a criminal record," stated the complaint.
The complaint said Madison police interviewed Thousand and her boyfriend, Michael Benike, on May 31. Both denied any involvement in the robberies. The couple gave their cellphone numbers to police. Police pulled the cellphone records which showed Thousand's cellphone was used near each of eight bank robberies that happened in 2012, according to the complaint.
The complaint said FBI agents placed a GPS device on Thousand's Toyota Carolla on July 6.
On July 13, the complaint said search warrants were executed at the homes of Thousand and Benike.
"Thousand provided a statement in which she admitted involvement in nine bank robberies, including the eight aforementioned bank robberies occurring in 2012. Thousand also stated that her boyfriend, Michael Benike, was the person who entered each of the banks to commit to the robberies. Thousand explained that she and Benike would drive around and look at banks to determine which banks were close to a major road allowing a quick getaway," stated the complaint.
Thousand told police she and Benike are heroin addicts and the money stolen from banks were used to purchase the drug.
Thousand and Benike are alleged to be involved with three additional bank robberies, including one in Rockford, Ill. and Dubuque, Iowa.
Both people will appear in court July 19. Each count of bank robbery carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison.
Associated Bank put out a statement in regards to these arrests.
"We at Associated Bank are appreciative of the efforts and service of area law enforcement in their work to solve these crimes. The support they provide is essential for the safety and security of our customers, colleagues and community as we do business each and every day," said Autumn Latimore, a spokesperson for Associated Bank.