'Barbie Bandit' Bank Robbery Believed to Be Inside Job

Robbery by smiling girls believed to have been the scheme of bank teller


Police say the so-called Barbie Bandits, who robbed a Cobb County bank while hiding behind smiles and sunglasses, have been unmasked.

Cobb County police announced the arrest of two young women Thursday night, along with a new twist: The girls, who were initially thought to be as young as 16, are actually 19 and allegedly were working in cahoots with the bank teller.

Because it was an inside job, authorities say, Ashley Miller and Heather Johnson, both of Fulton County, will be charged with theft but not bank robbery. The penalty for bank robbery, said Cobb police Officer Wayne Delk, would have been much steeper.

Tuesday's bizarre heist, at a Bank of America branch inside an Acworth Kroger, generated intense media attention across the globe --- Australia, Japan, the Mediterranean nation of Malta.

After police released surveillance camera images of the women in shades, nonchalant as they stood before the teller, one Web site headlined the story: "Kappa Kappa Gimme Your Money: Hottie Bandits Strike Georgia Bank."

"We have gotten tons of calls --- from 'That's my niece,' 'That's my granddaughter,' to 'I know this person from such and such,' " Delk said.

Eventually, the publicity yielded the tip police needed.

The women were pulled over in Douglas County on Thursday afternoon, police say. A man in the gray Nissan with them, Michael Chastang, 27, has also been arrested, although police did not say how he was connected to the robbery. He had an outstanding warrant for failure to appear in court in Fulton County.

After hours of questioning the two women, detectives announced the arrest late Thursday night and laid out what they said they had learned:

The women, dressed in tight jeans and designer sunglasses, smiled and giggled as they walked up to a teller at the Mars Hill Road Kroger. They handed him a note, got an undisclosed but "substantial" sum of money and strolled out.

It turns out, police said, they knew the teller, Benny Herman Allen III, 22, of Bartow County.

"All of them conspired to steal the money," Delk said. "The teller, he was in on it."

Allen was arrested the day of the incident, but at the time police did not think he was connected to the heist. He was picked up on an outstanding warrant from Bartow County.

A woman who answered the phone at Allen's Cartersville townhouse Thursday night responded to a reporter: "I'm not trying to talk to anybody from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. I'm not sure how you got my phone number." Then she hung up.

Miller had an outstanding warrant out of Clayton County for violating probation. Police did not release any other information on them, no doubt sending college students scrambling to social networking Web sites such as Facebook and MySpace to see if they can find them.

Larry Sparks, unit chief of the violent crimes unit for the FBI, said that since the 1980s about 5 percent of bank robberies were committed by women.

"The only real difference we are seeing now is the role of the female. It used to be they were the lookouts or drove the getaway car. Now we are seeing them going into the bank."

"Very few bank robberies involve teenagers," Sparks said.

People were still buzzing about the case Thursday.

Andrew Rigney, a freshman at Kennesaw State University, said he and his friends were amazed by the case.

"How could it be that easy to steal that much money?" he said.

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