Alleged mastermind arrested in bank robbery ring

January 6, 2011 3:36:32 PM PST
Police have arrested a fourth suspect in the dramatic New Year's Eve hostage standoff at a Pearland bank -- a man accused of masterminding the robbery. Police also say this wasn't the first. The tense moments all played out live on Eyewitness News on New Year's Eve. Police say the man they now have in custody is responsible for several more bank robberies.

It appears Larry Smith, 34, knew investigators were after him. Authorities say Smith planned to skip town to avoid prosecution.

Federal investigators believe Smith may have orchestrated a string of bank robberies dating back to September and ending with the New Year's Eve attempt in Pearland that led to a tense standoff with police.

According to court documents, one of Smith's alleged accomplices, who is a juvenile, told authorities as part of the planning process "Smith often entered banks prior to the robbery to observe if there were any security guards or bullet resistant barriers between the tellers and lobby customers."

Smith is the fourth suspect to face charges in Friday's failed bank robbery in Pearland. Wydell Johnson, his uncle Raymond Johnson and Samuel Bonner are all in jail. Authorities won't say if Smith's the last suspect, only that the investigation is ongoing.

Officials say they've been able to link Smith to three bank robberies scattered across the Houston area since September. Smith's alleged juvenile accomplice who investigators are calling 'VM" "stated, at the direction of Smith, he had robbed six banks in a similar manner."

He claims Smith recruited him along with several other men and paid them to commit various bank robberies. Investigators say Smith and his accomplices communicated by texting each other and often talked in code, using words like "work ... for robbing a bank."

At the time of their arrests, Smith's alleged accomplices were caught with anywhere from a thousand to a few thousand dollars. Smith has been charged with bank robbery in federal court.