MINNEAPOLIS — The identity of the suspect who was arrested after a string of seven bank robberies was released Tuesday, Sept. 17, along with more information on the robberies.
The suspect is William Manuel Villanueva, 37, according to a news release issued by the Minneapolis Police Department.
Minneapolis police officers arrested Villanueva in connection with two bank robberies that occurred at Wells Fargo Bank locations in Minneapolis on Aug. 12 and 24.
During the investigation, detectives learned there were six bank robberies throughout Minnesota and one in Wisconsin, all using the same method of robbery and the same suspect description.
The suspect, according to court documents, would approach a teller and give him or her a note that read, “$50s and $100s only. No dye packs. I have a gun but don’t want to use it. Give back note.”
A robbery was executed in the same way in Alexandria at the Affinity Credit Union on Thursday, Aug. 29. The suspect was given an undisclosed amount of money.
Villanueva has been charged with two counts of second degree aggravated robbery by the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office.
What led to the arrest
In late August and into early September, officers received multiple calls from family members of Villanueva, according to court documents. The family members indicated they viewed the still images released to the public and identified the person as Villanueva.
Officers obtained a search warrant for a "cell phone dump" looking for commonality of cellphones active in the areas and at the times of the above-listed bank robberies. Two cellphone numbers were identified as being common in place and time to three of the bank robberies. These two cellphone numbers were also found to be communicating with each other around the time of the bank robberies.
Officers linked one of the cellphone numbers to Villanueva, as he had used this cellphone number during a prior pawnshop transaction. The other cellphone number was linked to a woman who was identified as Villanueva's girlfriend.
Officers learned the girlfriend was the registered owner of a 2014 Ford Fusion. Officers issued an alert for the vehicle and subsequently learned it was located at Mystic Lake 2 Casino in Scott County on Sept. 3.
Officers obtained video surveillance from the casino and observed a person matching Villanueva’s description and appearance driving the Ford. Officers learned he was arrested on Sept. 6 by Scott County law enforcement.
At the time of his arrest, Villanueva was driving the 2014 Ford Fusion. The vehicle was seized and searched. Inside the vehicle, officers located two notebooks with pages torn out. Officers inspected the remaining pages and observed pen impressions on a blank page. The impressions were readable and were consistent with the language in the bank demand notes used in the robberies.
On Sept. 6, officers located and spoke with the girlfriend who said she owned the 2014 Ford Fusion. She told police she was involved in the bank robberies with Villanueva and detailed their respective roles in each robbery, including who drove the vehicle, where they parked and what Villanueva was wearing.
The girlfriend was shown still images from each of the bank robberies and, in all instances, identified the bank robber as Villanueva.
On Sept. 9, officers obtained a statement from Villanueva and he admitted to committing the robberies, identified himself as the person depicted on still images from the bank robberies, and said the demand notes were written by his girlfriend, according to court documents.
Villanueva is in custody in Chisago County.
Villanueva has a criminal history in Minnesota that stretches back to 2001. He has been convicted of attempted robbery, giving false information to a police officer, marijuana possession, misdemeanor domestic assault, two felony-level domestic assaults and violating a no-contact order.