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Alleged 'Dapper Bandit' pleads not guilty to robbery series

SAN DIEGO -- A man dubbed the “Dapper Bandit'' for allegedly pulling off robberies from San Diego County to Fresno pleaded not guilty Wednesday to heists at a Mira Mesa check-cashing store and a Point Loma bank.

John Richard Martinez, 41, was arrested as he tried to enter the United States from Mexico on New Year's Eve, said Deputy District Attorney Melissa Vasel.

Martinez, of Fresno, told authorities that he was coming back to San Diego to rob the same U.S. Bank branch in Point Loma that he hit on Dec. 27 because he had run out of money, Vasel told Judge David Szumowski.

Martinez is also accused of robbing a Mira Mesa check-cashing store of $1,000 on Dec. 20, the prosecutor said.

In both San Diego holdups, the robber displayed what the clerk and teller thought was a semiautomatic handgun, Vasel said.

Martinez is suspected in four other robberies since November in Fresno, Tulare, King County and Agoura Hills, the prosecutor said. The defendant got away with thousands of dollars in two of the heists, Vasel said.

When he was caught at the border, authorities searched the car Martinez was driving and found a suit jacket, black turtleneck and a newsboy style hat attributed to the “Dapper Bandit,'' Vasel said.

Authorities also found a second outfit, including a Nike hat and flannel jacket linked to the robber in the “Dapper Bandit'' series, the prosecutor said.

Vasel alleged that Martinez wore makeup to cover face tattoos and the turtleneck to cover neck tattoos during the robberies.

Martinez -- who was on parole at the time of his arrest -- faces 19 years in state prison if convicted of the two robbery charges in San Diego, Vasel said.

She said Martinez at some point had cut off an electronic bracelet he was required to wear.

The defendant -- held on $500,000 bail -- has a 1992 robbery conviction and a prior escape conviction, the prosecutor said.

Szumowski set a status conference for Jan. 12 and a preliminary hearing for Jan. 19.

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