Pair arrested, charged in bank robberies
JANESVILLE FBI agents and police officers from Madison and Mount Horeb on Friday arrested two people in connection with six southern Wisconsin bank robberies, including one in Janesville.
A criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Madison claims that Michael Benike, 29, of Madison, and Tara Thousand, 25, of Mount Horeb, “knowingly took by force and violence, and by intimidation, money” from the six banks dating back to May. The banks and dates are:
- Associated Bank, Middleton on May 9
- Associated Bank, Madison on May 14
- Anchor Bank, Janesville, on May 19
- M&I Bank, Madison on May 23
- Anchor Bank, Madison on June 6
- Home Savings, Madison, June 8
The Janesville robbery at Anchor Bank on Holiday Drive netted the thief $250. A lone male entered the bank and demanded money. Police reports indicate he told bank employees he had a gun. The bank robber fled in a silver Toyota Corolla, according to a Wisconsin Crime Alert Network bulletin.
Benike and Thousand are scheduled to appear in federal court in Madison July 19. Each bank robbery count carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.
“The suspect typically wore a hat, sunglasses and a long sleeve shirt and handed a note to the teller saying that he has a gun. The suspect would then ask for $50s and $100s,” stated the complaint. “Several eyewitness reports and tips described a white female driving the vehicle in which the robber escapes. Surveillance cameras from several of the banks showed a silver Toyota Corolla, with a sun roof and apparent missing license plates, being used by the suspect.”
The criminal complaint explained how investigators were able to identify the suspects.
“Law enforcement consulted with Toyota dealerships in Madison and Dubuque, Iowa, and concluded that the Toyota Corolla is likely a 2003 to 2008 LE model with a sunroof. A Wisconsin Department of Transportation query for all 2003 to 2008 Toyota Corollas in Dane County resulted in a total of 5,700 registered vehicles. Of those 5,700 vehicles, 1,300 were silver. Of those 1,300 vehicles, 49 had factory-installed sunroofs. Of those 49 registered drivers, only one person, Tara Thousand, had a criminal record,” according to the complaint.
Thousand provided a statement in which she admitted involvement in the Wisconsin robberies. Thousand also stated that her boyfriend, Michael Benike, was the person who entered each of the banks to commit to the robberies. Thousand explained that she and Benike would drive around and look at banks to determine which banks were close to a major road allowing a quick getaway, according to the complaint.
Thousand and Benike are suspected of three additional bank robberies, including ones in Rockford, Ill. and Dubuque, Iowa.
WISC-TV, Madison, contributed to this story.