Woman charged with 3 bank robberies in Riverdale, Palos Heights

Surveillance images of a woman suspected in three south suburban bank robberies since June 2016. | FBI photos
Surveillance images of a woman suspected in three south suburban bank robberies since June 2016. | FBI photos

- A woman has been charged with robbing a bank in south suburban Riverdale twice last year and attempting to rob a Palos Heights bank in March.

Dinika Lawrence, 28, faces two counts of bank robbery and one count of attempted bank robbery, according to a complaint filed April 6 in U.S. District Court.

About 3:42 p.m. on June 23, 2016, Lawrence entered the Chase Bank branch at 244 W. 144th St. in Riverdale and approached an employee to conduct a transaction, the complaint alleges.

Lawrence and the employee entered a cubicle, where she gave the employee a note demanding $20,000 in $20s, that claimed she had a bomb strapped to her and that men from ISIS were holding her children hostage, according to the complaint. Bank employees then gave her the amount of money demanded and she left.

About two and a half months later, Lawrence robbed the same bank branch a second time, the complaint alleges. She entered the bank about 5:50 p.m. on Sept. 9, 2016, and told an employee that she had a bomb and they had two minutes to give her $100,000.

Lawrence started counting down while two employees went to the bank vault to retrieve the money, according to the complaint. Lawrence was given about $66,000 in a plastic bag through the window at the teller counter.

About 5:30 p.m. on March 24, Lawrence tried to rob the Chase Bank Branch at 12657 S. Ridgeland Ave. in Palos Heights, but was unsuccessful, according to the complaint.

Lawrence entered the bank and presented a demand note to a bank employee at the teller window, according to the complaint. The employee backed away from the window and Lawrence said something to the effect of “Give me everything.”

The employee continued to back away from the window and pressed the alarm button, according to the complaint. After a short time, Lawrence took the note and walked out of the bank without any money.

The bank employee said Lawrence entered a tan or gold, older-model vehicle that appeared to be a Mercury Grand Marquis that drove off, according to the complaint.

About 40 minutes before the robbery, Palos Heights police received a report of a suspicious vehicle in the same block of the bank branch, according to the complaint. It was described as a beat-up tan car with tape on the windows and no license plate. The witness described the driver as a large, black male and the passenger as a smaller, black person whose gender was not clear.

Witnesses in each incident said the robber wore a multicolored scarf that covered her face and walked with a limp, according to the complaint.

Information on each robbery was gathered through bank surveillance footage and interviews with witnesses, according to the complaint.

Lawrence was identified after a vehicle matching the description of the one used in the Palos Heights robbery was involved in the robbery of a Calumet City Walgreens store, according to the complaint.

Calumet City police responded about 12:12 a.m. on March 29 to a reported robbery at the Walgreens store at 522 Torrence Ave., according to the complaint. A black male entered the store wearing all black, reached over the counter and grabbed $60 before running out of the store and getting into a gold-colored vehicle.

Dolton police then spotted and curbed the vehicle, a 1997 Ford Crown Victoria, the complaint says. They arrested the male who was driving the car after the Calumet City Walgreens manager identified him as the robber. Lawrence was also in the car.

Calumet City police impounded the Ford Crown Victoria, and Riverdale police told the FBI that a vehicle matching the description of the car in the Palos Heights bank robbery had been impounded, according to the complaint.

Two witnesses of the bank robbery identified the Ford Crown Victoria as the same one that was used, according to the complaint. A employee of an auto repair shop in Dolton then identified Lawrence and the driver as husband and wife, and claimed to have sold them the vehicle on March 20.

A tipster who claimed to have once been close friends with Lawrence called the FBI on March 29 and identified her as the woman from all three bank robberies based on surveillance photos from each robbery, according to the complaint. The tipster also stated that Lawrence walks with a limp because she and her husband were shot several years ago and needed therapy to walk again.

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