It was December 10th when Ferndale Police responded to report of a robbery at the Ferndale branch of Key Bank. While there was an initial mention of a hostage situation, it was determined a teller was saying she had been threaten by phone and told to deliver money to a location on Hovander Road.
Law enforcement were able to locate a box but no money at the reported drop off location shortly after receiving the initial report. An investigation into the robbery began and involved multiple agencies including the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
On December 18th, the bank teller, Donna A. Brown, surrendered voluntarily to Ferndale Police at the Whatcom County Jail where she was booked for 1st degree theft. The state asked for a $10,000 bail but the court released Brown on her own personal recognizance without bond and ordered her not to leave the state at any time or leave the county overnight until after her trial. She was also required not to have contact with any Key Bank employees.
In the probable cause affidavit submitted to the court by Deputy Prosecuting Attorney James Hulbert, information received from the Ferndale Police Department detailing the events after they responded and results of the subsequent investigation include,
Brown reported she had been on the phone with a bank client when a male caller broke in to the call and told her to remove her extra cash and bring it to a location near the Superfeet building.
Brown said the caller told her a gun was pointed at the bank manager and described what the manager was wearing.
Brown said she panicked, took money from the vault and drove to the location and dropped the money.
According to security personnel, video surveillance showed Brown receiving a call about the time of the theft. She did not appear upset and was observed logging off her computer, accessing money from the bank safe and putting it in a box. She then left the bank with the box in a bag.
The box and bag were recovered by investigators but not the cash. Bank personnel determined they were short more than $34,000.
A phone system security analyst told investigators breaking into a call in the manner described by Brown would require physical access to computer server located in a different state.
Brown had been an employee of Key Bank for 14 years at the time of the robbery. In the past 5 years there have four other incidents of suspected theft from the branch where she worked.
- Over $3900 was lost from an area to which Brown had access
- $2000 was lost from a teller under Brown’s supervision
- a $10,000 secure transport delivery went missing
- Brown’s own teller till was nearly $2500 short
In all of the four previous incidents, Brown also cited phone and/or computer problems.
Brown has pleaded not guilty to the charge and has retained the services of an attorney.