Costumed bank robber gets probation

A man who disguised himself to rob a bank in Burlingame was sentenced today to five years of probation and ordered to complete a drug treatment program after pleading no contest last month to felony robbery charges.

Mitchell Joseph Garcia, 56, was sentenced by San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Leland Davis to the probation term and two years in the Delancey Street Foundation’s residential treatment program, according to Garcia’s attorney Jeff Jackson. Garcia will also be required to pay $5,565 in restitution to Bank of America and to stay away from Bank of America premises, District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said.

On July 5, Garcia walked into the Burlingame branch at 400 El Camino Real disguised as a woman and handed a series of flashcards to a teller claiming that he had a gun and a bomb, prosecutors said. Garcia also brandished a black-and-white plastic device emitting flashing green lights before fleeing the scene with $5,565 in cash, according to prosecutors.

More than a year earlier, on April 24, 2013, Garcia had attempted to rob the same bank in a similar fashion while wearing fake dreadlocks and a fake mustache that kept falling off. That attempted bank robbery failed when Garcia fled the scene before the teller gave him any money, prosecutors said.

Investigators got a DNA match from the first robbery and obtained a warrant for Garcia’s arrest. He was eventually arrested later in July 2014 at a residential hotel in San Francisco and pleaded no contest on Jan. 13 to felony robbery and attempted robbery charges.

Jackson said this morning’s sentence reflects the judge’s belief that drug use is the root cause of his client’s criminal behavior:

“Mr. Garcia has had alcohol and significant methamphetamine issues for roughly 40 years. … For the past five months he’s been in a treatment program in a jail and done really well.”

Jackson added:

“My client worked hard to address his own substance abuse issues and he was very honest and remorseful to the judge and to the tellers that he harmed. … He took full responsibility and so I’m hopeful that the program will be what he needs to turn his life around.”