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Bad Hair Bandit suspect charged in Calif.

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A former Kootenai County Jail nurse who also worked in elementary schools has been charged with robbing 21 banks in Washington, Oregon, California and Montana.

Cynthia Lynn Van Holland, 48, is accused of being the "Bad Hair Bandit," a serial robber nicknamed by the FBI because she wore a variety of ugly wigs during the heists, which authorities allege netted about $42,000.

Van Holland has been in jail in California since Placer County sheriff's deputies arrested last August after a robbery in Auburn, about 35 miles northeast of Sacramento. Her 26-year-old husband, Christopher Alonzo, an ex-con whom Van Holland met while working as a nurse in Idaho prisons, also was arrested.

Police say the couple had a cat and litter box in their car, as well as more than $8,000 in a Victoria's Secret bag. They also had two wigs and a receipt indicating the items were purchased in Oregon on July 1 - the same day Van Holland is believed to have robbed a bank in Lake Oswego.

Van Holland confessed to the four-state robbery spree in an interview with an FBI agent at the Placer County Jail the day of her arrest, according to court documents. The Bad Hair Bandit had been on the FBI's most wanted list since May.

Placer County District Attorney Ronald Owens commended the Placer County Sheriff's Department for quickly responding to the robbery in Auburn and arrested Van Holland.

"I want to comment the rapid response and diligence of the Placef County Sheriff' Department following he Auburn robbery, for their work in quickly locating and arresting this pair of bank robbers and putting an end to their crime spree.

Van Holland worked as a contract nurse in jails and prisons and met Alonzo, a convicted felon from North Idaho, when he was an inmate. She was working at the Kootenai County Jail until about a week before her arrest and also worked as a school nurse in Western Washington during the robbery spree.

Van Holland is charged with the following robberies:

Dec. 22, 2010: U.S. Bank, Tacoma $2,072
Jan. 5, 2011: Key Bank, Tumwater $1,285
Jan. 12, 2011: Key Bank, Tacoma $1,214
Jan. 14, 2011: Wells Fargo Bank, Spanaway $1,050
Jan. 26, 2011: Cathay Bank, Kent $0
Jan. 27, 2011: First Security Bank, Redmond $441
Feb. 10, 2011: U.S Bank, Auburn, Wash. $965
 Feb. 19, 2011: Wells Fargo Bank, University Place $619
March 25, 2011: Sound Community Bank, Tacoma $1,960
April 9, 2011: Wells Fargo Bank, University Place $440
April 21, 2011: Cathay Bank, Bellevue $2,300
April 26, 2011: Wheatland Bank, Ellensburg $714
April 27, 2011: Key Bank, Moses Lake $2,938
May 9, 2011: Chase Bank, Spokane $1,920
June 7, 2011: Sterling Bank, Moses Lake $6,384
June 28: East West Bank, Sacramento, Calif. $671
June 28: U.S. Bank, Davis, Calif. $1,967
July 1, 2011: Key Bank, Lake Oswego, Ore. $1,600
July 18, 2011: Yakima Federal, Richland, Wash. $3,152
Aug. 11, 2011: Bank of Butte, Butte, Mont. $1,600
Aug. 15, 2011: Bank of the West, Auburn Calif. $8,722

Van Holland had been named a suspect in Jan. 21, 2011, robbery at Heritage Bank in Tacoma but is not charged. She remains in federal custody in California.

Past coverage:

May 12, 2011: Did the Bad Hair Bandit rob two Spokane banks in 2010?

Fugitive’s wig, dyed hair don’t deter cops

A fugitive wanted on heroin charges was arrested this week after a U.S. Marshal spotted him at a home in Spokane disguised in a blond wig.

Frisco San Juan Ayala, 32, was wearing the wig when federal agents observed him placing backpacks inside two vehicles between 8:30 a.m. and 9 a.m. Monday, according to court documents filed today.

About 9:45 a.m., Ayala got into a gray Dodge truck but crashed into another vehicle at the intersection of East Empire Avenue and North Napa Street, then fled on foot, leaving behind a black pistol, according to the U.S. Marshals Service.

He was arrested near Napa and East Gordon Avenue with more than 10 grams of methamphetamine, as well as heroin and "numerous suspected precious gems," documents say.

Ayala was not wearing the wig at the time, but his hair was dyed and investigators found the wig in the cab of the truck, said Deputy U.S. Marshal Bob Doty.

Ayala is described by federal agents as a "mid- to upper-level drug trafficker in the Spokane area," according to court documents.

Agents searched the home in the 2100 block of E. Heroy Ave., where Ayala had been spotted that morning, and seized a meth pipe, ammunition and hair dye from the home. The homeowner has a felony crack cocaine distribution conviction from the late 1990s.

Ayala had been wanted since April 18 for a federal case involving the alleged distribution of at least 100 grams of heroin.

Gary Erwin Douglass, 57; Charles R. Wallace, 41; Samuel William Wright, 36; Brian L. Sellers, 35; and James Clayton Lindsay, 57, also are charged.

Charges against Julie A. Rice-Lewis, 38, and Chad Jason Benefield have been dismissed.

Wigged felon with gun, drugs charged

A fugitive felon arrested in Spokane with drugs and a gun while wearing a wig and sunglasses has been indicted by a federal grand jury.

James Anthony Stinson, 41, faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm.

Stinson was arrested Jan. 16 after a Spokane police officer spotted him driving a blue Ford Explorer while wearing the disguise, according to court documents.

Stinson had an escape warrant from the Washington Department of Corrections. Police arrested him in a motel parking lot at 4301 W. Sunset Blvd., and found methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin in a black case.

Stinson also had a black and silver Taurus 9 mm semi-automatic handgun in the car, police say. He's prohibited from possessing guns because of six felony convictions, all drug related.

Stinson was charged in Spokane County Superior Court with three counts of possession of a controlled substance. He's out of jail on $10,000 bond with trial scheduled for June.

The federal gun charge in U.S. District Court was filed Tuesday. He has not yet been arrested in that case.

Wigged woman sought in 2 bank robberies

A woman who wore a red wig to rob a Spokane bank in late June may have struck again this week.

A robber matching the description of the culprit in the June 30 heist at Banner Bank, 933 E. Mission, stole an undisclosed amount of cash from Banner Bank, 3919 N. Market, just before 1 p.m. Monday, Spokane police announced Wednesday.

The woman did not display a weapon and appears to have worn a black wig (left). 

Police say she appeared 45 to 50 years old, 5-foot-5 with black hair and dark sunglasses.

In the June 30 robbery, police say the same woman wore a wig and sunglasses (left, right) while demanding cash from  employees at the bank,  which is located inside a Safeway grocery store.

Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for tips that lead to an arrest.

Anyone with information on the woman is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS or submit tips online.

Tipsters don’t have to leave their name to collect a reward but should leave a code name or number.

The woman is the second alleged serial bank robber operating in Spokane. The FBI still is looking for a bicycle-riding bandit linked to six robberies since December.