‘Hipster Bandit’ pleads guilty to bank robberies

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The “Hipster Bandit,” so named by the FBI for his stylist clothing and sunglasses he wore to bank robberies–has pleaded guilty to holding up a La Mesa bank and six others for a total of $16,120 taken.

The “Hipster Bandit,” so named by the FBI for his stylist clothing and sunglasses he wore to bank robberies–has pleaded guilty to holding up a La Mesa bank and six others for a total of $16,120 taken.

William Conn Robertson II, 28, will be sentenced Oct. 27 in U.S. District Court and faces a maximum 20-year federal prison sentence.  The U.S. Bank, at 8920 Fletcher Parkway in La Mesa, was the first bank hold-up in the series on July 2, 2015, according to court records.

Robertson entered the bank and wrote a note on the back of an envelope to the teller that said “do not do anything stupid.” The teller complied and Robertson took $1,800 in cash.  The other banks he admitted to robbing were located in Claremont, Fallbrook, Scripps-Poway area, and Oceanside.

Robertson is a veteran of both Iraq and Afghanistan and served as a military sniper before he received an honorable discharge. A veteran’s group that was posted online took a photo of Robertson and he happened to be wearing a t-shirt with the “Sriracha” logo on it, which he wore during one of the bank robberies.

The FBI discovered Robertson fit the profile as the “Hipster Bandit.” He was arrested July 14, 2016 at an apartment in Serra Mesa where he was staying on the couch of a friend he knew from high school. An anonymous tipster alerted Crimestoppers five days before that Robertson was the “Hipster Bandit,” according to court records after the FBI publicized a $20,000 reward.

Robertson remains in the Metropolitan Correctional Center without bail. 

Lemon Grove man pleads guilty to child endangerment

Noel Bences, 29, of Lemon Grove, will be sentenced Sept. 1 after he pleaded guilty to child endangerment and driving with a .23 blood/alcohol level when he struck a palm tree and overturned his vehicle, injuring his three children.

Bences faces a year in jail or less, though the maximum sentence is six years and eight months in prison, according to San Diego Superior Court records. Child endangerment charges involving his other two children were dismissed.

The incident took place May 12 at 8:30 p.m. on Sunset Cliffs Boulevard.  Bences remains free on $100,000 bond and wears a bracelet that detects alcohol consumption. His bond conditions ban him from driving with his children.

Two Ell Cajon tax preparers’ sentenced in IRS fraud

Two El Cajon tax preparers have been sentenced to 30 months each in federal prison in a scheme that defrauded the Internal Revenue Service out of $882,000.

Ebrahim Ashamu, 58, and Rashad Abdul-Rahim, 46, were also ordered to pay $367,631 and $44,937 respectively to the IRS by U.S. District Court Judge Roger Benitez in San Diego. A third co-defendant, Rahim Ali Cummings, 47, of Detroit, also received 30 months and was ordered to pay $470,042 to the IRS.

Ashamu used to operate a tax preparation business as Vista Tax Services on El Cajon Boulevard. Abdul-Rahim worked with Cummings and Ashamu by recruiting customers and obtaining stolen identities to use in the scheme, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office.

Abdul-Rahim and Ashamu will be released from separate prisons in Lompoc and Texas in June, 2018, and Cummings will be released in Sept., 2018, from an Oregon prison. They received credit for spending almost a year in jail before they were sentenced.

Abdul-Rahim and Cummings pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud, and filing false claims.  Ashamu pleaded guilty to filing false claims and aggravated identity theft. Ashamu and Cummings prepared and filed the false tax returns between Sept. 2011 and Sept., 2012. The IRS uncovered the scheme because a majority of the refunds were mailed to addresses controlled by all three men.

As part of their plea agreements, all three agreed to be permanently barred from preparing or filing federal income tax returns for anyone other than themselves.  A civil complaint will be filed against them.

The U.S. Attorney’s office says Abdul-Rahim solicited and obtained personal identifying info from victims under false pretenses, such as saying they could obtain free government money from grant and senior programs.

“This type of fraud increases the burden on honest taxpayers and negatively impacts honest citizens’ confidence in our tax system,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Alana Robinson.

“Unscrupulous tax preparers and their associates should take notice: if you defraud the IRS and unsuspecting members of the public, law enforcement will bring you to justice and seek to hold you accountable,” concluded Robinson. 

“Justice is served, and these three individuals are being held accountable for their criminal actions,” said R. Damon Rowe, special agent for the IRS criminal investigation. “It’s a matter of maintaining public confidence in the integrity of the U.S. tax system and protecting the identities of those we serve.”

“Identity theft and the unauthorized use of individuals’ personal identifying information continues to impose significant financial harm to American citizens and businesses,” said David Murray, special agent in the San Diego field office for the Secret Service.

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