Bank Robbers Strap Bomb to Teller, Escape With Loot

Hollywood-like heist at Bank of America near University of Miami

DSCN08671
Caroline Aghajanian

A tense standoff at a Coral Gables bank unfolded Friday morning after a trio of robbers kidnapped a bank employee from his home, strapped what may have been an explosive device to his chest and used him to get into the bank and rob it.

The movie script-like heist began late Thursday night when the robbers kidnapped an employee of the Bank of America at 1500 S. Dixie Highway from his apartment building in Kendall, officials said.

The employee, identified by family members as 25-year-old Diego Uscamayta, was held along with his father inside the family's apartment for several hours.

He was driven in his car by the robbers to the bank early Friday morning before the branch opened. According to authorities, one other person, the branch manager, was inside the bank when the robbers, who stayed in the car in the parking lot, sent Uscamayta in.

Uscamayta was wearing a vest that may have had a bomb attached, police said.

The robbers told him to "get as much money as you can," according to Coral Gables Police Chief Richard Naue. The robbers instructed him that they had a remote detonator for the device he was wearing that could could set off.

Uscamayta reportedly worked his way into the vault and retrieved money for the robbers, who left the bank. The branch manager called 911 just after 8 a.m.

A short time later, Coral Gables police had surrounded the bank, which is across the street from the University of Miami, with guns drawn.

A SWAT team and bomb squad arrived at the scene, and the FBI was called in as police worked to assess the situation and determine if any hostages or robbers were inside.

Just before 11 a.m., Coral Gables police said that customers and employees had all left the bank, with one person still inside.

Around 11:30 a.m., the SWAT team made their way into the bank, removing a shirtless man, believed to be Uscamayta, in handcuffs from the building.

"The individual has been brought out and he is being questioned," said Coral Gables Police spokeswoman Sgt. Janette Frevola.

An FBI spokesperson said the three robbers got away with an undetermined amount of cash. They allegedly fled the scene in Uscamayta's red Ford Mustang.

"It is an unusual event to have explosives strapped to a victim," said FBI Assistant Special Agent in Charge Dena Choucair.

By early afternoon, authorities had the area surrounding the building closed off as they dealt with the possible explosive device still inside.

Both the northbound and southbound lanes of U.S. 1 were closed from Red Road to Mariposa Ave. for several hours, causing massive traffic backups for several blocks.

An alert was issued to students at UM to avoid the area, but the school's website noted that campus operations "remain normal."

Three nearby schools, Sunset Elementary and Ludlam Elementary and Riviera Day School, were placed on shutdown as a precaution.

In a statement, Bank of America said "the safety of our associates is our highest priority and Bank of America is working closely with law enforcement to assist in the situation."

Contact Us