Bank robbery suspect caught in Truckee
An observant motel owner and a guest who gave a false name led South Lake Tahoe police to an arrest Tuesday in the case of a series of South Shore bank robberies.
The trail ended early Wednesday morning in a Truckee Motel with the arrest of a 52-year-old Salem, Ore., man and the recovery of nearly all the stolen money, police said.
Meredith Howard Polzel was arrested shortly after midnight Wednesday by South Lake Tahoe police, an agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and members of the Nevada County Sheriff’s Department.
“It was just good solid police work,” said South Lake Police Detective Martin Hewlett. “After the third robbery at the Wells Fargo Branch in the Crescent V, officers canvassed neighboring motels. Officer Michael Salsbury found a lead at a Stateline motel. The owner believed a man, fitting the description of the robber, had been staying at his motel.”
The man checked into the motel using the name Michael Jones, and gave a false identification number and phone number on the rental form, Hewlett said. Officers learned that the man had called a private hauling company and solicited a ride from South Lake Tahoe to Truckee.
“The hauler is not a cabby. He owns a flatbed truck and hires out to haul stuff away from people’s home,” Hewlett explained. “He was contracted to haul ‘Jones.'”
The hauler reportedly picked Jones up from the motel around 5 p.m. Tuesday, minutes after the robbery at the Wells Fargo Bank in Raley’s. Jones paid the driver $200 for the ride, police said.
Investigators traveled to the Cottage Motel on Donner Pass Road in downtown Truckee where the manager informed them that a Michael Jones had checked into the motel Tuesday night and paid cash for the room.
When Jones opened his motel room door, Hewlett said cash was sitting in plain view in the room. Jones matched witnesses’ descriptions of the robber. Hewlett, a FBI agent, and members of the Nevada County Sheriff’s Department, placed Jones under arrest for the three bank robberies. Jones then reportedly admitted that his real name was Polzel.
Polzel is being held in lieu of $250,000 bail in the El Dorado County Jail.
Hewlett said he believes Polzel was staying in South Lake Tahoe during the time of the robberies.
In all three cases, a tall, thin man entered the bank, handed a teller a demand note indicating he was armed, and left on foot with the money. The first incident was Aug. 19 at the El Dorado Savings Bank on U.S. Highway 50, four days later US Bank, also located on the highway, was hit, and the boldest strike of all came the following day at the Wells Fargo branch located near the busy casino corridor in a large shopping center.
Hewlett said no weapon was seen during any of the robberies and none was found in Polzel’s hotel room. Investigators said Polzel has a prior criminal history in Oregon of mostly minor offenses.
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