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Pattaya Daily News

14 February 2008 :: 16:02:10 pm 30118

Ponytail Bandit Bank Robber Arrested In Thailand

Under a low-slung ball cap and with a blond ponytail waving behind, she strolled into banks from Texas to Washington state and demanded cash, police said.
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Morgan Michelle Hoke’s alleged robbery spree has come to an end, Austin police announced today, after Royal Thai Police took the 21-year-old robbery suspect into custody 9,100 miles away from Texas, in Bangkok. For now, Hoke faces a single bank robbery charge and an unlawful flight to avoid prosecution charge. She could face additional charges for alleged bank hits in California and Washington.

“She’s been determined to be an undesirable in their country because of the warrants here,” Sgt. Art Arevalo, an Austin Police Department robbery investigator, told ABC News. “We are working with the FBI and an attaché there in Thailand and U.S. Marshals on the extradition.” he said. Authorities now are also looking for 26-year-old Stuart Michael Romine, a man Hoke married in Las Vegas last year, who is wanted in at least four Texas bank robberies of his own, including one as recent as Jan. 14.

“It’s not just something that you can just wave a wand and have happen,”

“We are not sure where he is right now,” Sgt. Richard Stresing, an Austin police spokesman said. “If he’s in a foreign country, his visa is going to run out. If he tries to come back to the United State, border patrol, customs, his passport will be red-flagged, his name and face will be known.”

The case began to unravel in mid-January when authorities in California heard from an informant who identified Hoke as the suspect the FBI had dubbed the “ponytail bandit,” Arevalo said. The tip came three days after a bank robbery by a male suspect in Austin. With Hoke identified, authorities were able to link the pair through interviews with Hoke’s associates and ultimately a marriage license.

Authorities believe that the pair fled the country for Thailand on Jan. 18. The investigation revealed a profile of a fugitive couple with an appetite for travel, according to Arevalo. The pair may have chosen Thailand because of Romine’s interest in Bhuddism.

Arevalo said that Hoke comes from a good family and upbringing and that authorities, as well as Hoke’s family, are struggling to understand why she may have gotten involved in crime. “They had a certain lifestyle,” he said. “Bank robbers commit crimes for a reason. A drug habit or a gambling habit. In this case, it appears they liked to travel.”

The FBI joined the search for Hoke last June, releasing images of a woman they say was responsible for a string of at least three bank robberies that began in May 2007 and continued in California and Washington State. The robber didn’t display a weapon in any of the incidents, police said. The FBI characterized the female suspect as having a distinctive, arms-folded stance and a slouch ? both of which can be seen in surveillance footage captured at all three bank locations. “In each of the robberies, a woman entered the bank, verbally demanded money, and then left the bank on foot,” according to an FBI statement in June.

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Reporter : PDN staff   Photo : Internet   Category : World News

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