Highland, CA

A man thought to be “The Cartel Bandit” has been arrested.

Wess Haubrich

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Surveillance footage.FBI LA Twitter

“The Cartel Bandit” put his name on a total of four bank robberies in Southern California.

This Wednesday, the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Office arrested a 26-year-old man from Highland, California man on the suspicion of four bank robberies.

Eric Michael Villagran was arrested at his home in Highland after a separate robbery warrant was executed and evidence was turned up, that allegedly, links Villagran to the four robberies the Cartel Bandit has reportedly committed.

Why the “Cartel Bandit” moniker? It was simple: the Bandit would pass a note to the tellers, claiming he would unleash “cartel violence” if the police were called through an alarm being tripped.

It’s unclear what exactly he meant by “cartel violence”. Were there other members of a Mexican or South American cartel somewhere close to or inside the bank with him? There are no reports, as far as the author can find, that say anyone was visible inside the bank with him. In short, the assumption is that he had no accomplices.

It’s most likely that the Bandit only used the cartels as a feign or ruse to help make his bank-robbing mission that much easier. It’s unclear whether any actual relationship between the robber and a cartel exists.

At any rate, according to the FBI, the Cartel Bandit has been sought since November 4, 2020, when he robbed a Bank of America in Victorville. Around five weeks later, police say the Bandit hit a Chase bank in Glendora.

He knocked over an Arrowhead Credit Union in Yucaipa on January 30 and a Wells Fargo in Palm Springs on March 2.

Watch this space for more on this case as it progresses.

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Former editor, now dogged-maverick journalist and researcher covering the crime beat. I examine the weird, absurd, and downright infamous in American crime both here and at Real Monsters podcast. Contact: wess@realmonsters.live

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