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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, January 5, 2008

Suspect charged in 4 Hawaii bank robberies

By Jim Dooley
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

This image of a robbery suspect was captured Wednesday by a surveillance camera at the McCully-Young branch of American Savings Bank. Police say the man is Ellis Cleveland, who has been charged with four bank robberies.

Honolulu Police Department

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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Ellis Cleveland

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When police detective Taro Nakamura told Ellis Cleveland that he was suspected of robbing four banks, Cleveland allegedly responded, "Four, I didn't do four, I only robbed three banks. But it doesn't matter because I'm not talking to you guys. I want a lawyer."

Cleveland, who's also known as Cleveland Ellis, yesterday was charged with three bank robberies and attempted robbery of a fourth, all within a five-day span last week. His statement to detective Nakamura was quoted in criminal papers filed against him in federal court.

A federal judge magistrate ordered Cleveland held without bail after the U.S. attorney's office called the defendant a danger to the community. A further bail hearing will be held Jan. 9.

Cleveland is charged with robbing First Hawaiian Bank's Makiki branch on Dec. 29; the same bank's Chinatown branch on Dec. 31; attempted robbery of the Bank of Hawai'i Ward Plaza branch, also on Dec. 31; and the McCully-Young branch of American Savings Bank on Jan. 2.

In each case, he allegedly passed demand notes to tellers. The Dec. 29 note said, "Give All The Money Nobody gets Hurt," according to a sworn affidavit from Nakamura. The teller turned over $800 in cash.

The note Cleveland allegedly passed in the Dec. 31 robbery contained the words, "I Want All The Money and be fast Nobody get Hurt." He left the bank with $923, according to court papers.

But that note also had Cleveland's fingerprint on it, according to the criminal complaint.

Cleveland is well-known to local law enforcement and his fingerprints are on file. He has been convicted of felonies including second-degree robbery and forgery. He also was awaiting trial in state court on drug charges.

The next note Cleveland allegedly used later on Dec. 31 at the Bank of Hawaii was so illegible that three different tellers couldn't read it, according to a sworn affidavit from Nakamura. The suspect left empty-handed.

In the final robbery Jan. 2, Ellis allegedly passed a note saying, "All the Money Nobody Gets Hurt," orally said, "give all your cash," and also pointed at the cash drawer.

He left the bank with $1,555, Nakamura said in his affidavit.

Cleveland was arrested the next day. Tellers from three of the four banks identified him as the robber, according to court papers. Authorities also say in court papers that they have surveillance video tapes, the fingerprint and the license plate of a getaway car allegedly used in the fourth robbery.

In the state drug case now pending against Cleveland, he originally pleaded guilty last year but later withdrew that plea. He was released pending trial last month after Circuit Judge Richard Perkins reduced Cleveland's bail to $12,000, court files show.

Trial in that case is set to begin next month.

Reach Jim Dooley at jdooley@honoluluadvertiser.com.