Local victim reacts to bizarre bank hostage robbery - San Diego, California News Station - KFMB Channel 8 - cbs8.com

Local victim reacts to bizarre bank hostage robbery in Los Angeles

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SAN DIEGO (AP/CBS 8) - Authorities investigating a bizarre bank heist on Thursday searched the home of a bank manager who was told to strap what she believed was a bomb to her midsection and was forced to order employees to "take out all the money" from her branch.

Two masked gunmen got away with an undisclosed amount of cash from the Bank of America when it opened Wednesday morning, but no one was injured in the robbery. No arrests had been made as of Thursday afternoon.

"I immediately thought - I can't believe it's happening again," said North County resident Michelle Renee, who in 2001 was victimized -- along with her then-eight-year-old daughter -- in a similar way. She is stunned by the eery parallels between Wednesday's bizarre bank heist in Los Angeles and her own traumatic experience in Vista in 2001.

Eleven years ago, Renee, then a branch manager at a Vista bank, was tied up in her home at gunpoint by three masked men, who strapped what they said was dynamite to her, her girl, and a roommate, and then forced Michelle to rob her own bank of $360,000.

"This person took her from home, so not only was her personal space violated, but her life has been turned upside down," Renee told News 8.

In both cases, the supposed explosives turned out to be fakes. On Wednesday, a robot was used to dismantle the bogus bomb after it was carefully removed from the victim.

Over the past decade, Renee's harrowing ordeal was profiled on '48 Hours.' She also wrote a book about it, which was turned into a made-for-TV movie, leading her and others to question if this week's brazen operation was some type of copycat crime.

Also similar: authorities have searched this current victim's home for any evidence that she may be an accomplice to the heist, which is something Renee also had to endure.

"They thought the same of me," she said. "And in my situation, my house became a crime scene."

Renee was later cleared of any involvement in the 2001 bank heist.

.Boxes of evidence were removed from the bank employee's home in Wednesday's case, according to Lt. Neal Mongan of Huntington Park police, whose detectives are leading the kidnapping portion of the probe.

The bank manager was snatched in front of her home Wednesday morning, said sheriff's Capt. Mike Parker. She arrived at her workplace wearing the device.

"She was told that it was explosives and she was ordered to go into the bank and take out all the money," Parker said. "She did do that in fear for her life."

A Los Angeles County sheriff's bomb squad disabled the device, but investigators said it wasn't an explosive.

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