Kula woman charged in connection with bank robbery in Pukalani

A 20-year-old Kula woman has been charged as a third suspect in the robbery last week of the Pukalani branch of First Hawaiian Bank.

Christina Sawyer, 20, was arrested Friday afternoon at her residence, said Lt. Jayson Rego of the Criminal Investigation Division.

During her initial appearance Monday afternoon in Wailuku District Court, Sawyer’s bail was set at $55,000 on charges of first-degree robbery and first-degree terroristic threatening.

Rego said Sawyer was charged as an accomplice in the robbery that occurred at about 3:05 p.m. Feb. 19 at the branch at 67 Makawao Ave. Police said a gunman entered the bank and ordered customers to the ground, threatening to kill them if they didn’t comply.

The robber had a bag that he took to each teller’s window and demanded money.

He left with an undisclosed amount of cash and was seen getting onto the back of a dirt bike operated by another man. Four tellers and 15 customers were in the bank at the time.

The next day, police arrested Richard “Ricky” Vance, 25, of Kula, who was identified as the gunman, and his girlfriend Sawyer at the Westin Maui Resort & Spa in Kaanapali, where they were staying.

Police also arrested Michael S. Sobel, 28, of Pukalani, who was identified as the alleged operator of the dirt bike.

Vance and Sobel were charged with first-degree robbery and first-degree terroristic threatening.

Sawyer was released pending further investigation of hindering prosecution before being arrested on the robbery charge Friday.

Although Sawyer didn’t enter the bank, she allegedly knew that the robbery had been planned and waited on the side of Kula Highway in her Toyota Corolla for the getaway dirt bike, said Deputy Prosecutor Kim Whitworth. She said Sawyer picked up Vance in her car and drove him to a Kula location where he met up with Sobel and divided the money from the robbery.

When police arrested Vance and Sawyer, they found some of the money from the bank robbery in her purse and in her vehicle, Whitworth said in court Monday afternoon. She said Sawyer’s car also contained clothing worn by the bank robber, including gloves and shoes.

According to court documents, Vance and Sawyer used some of the stolen money to buy clothes at Macy’s.

Some of the money was deposited into Sawyer’s bank account and used to check into the Westin, Whitworth said.

Deputy Public Defender Zach Raidmae asked that bail be reduced for Sawyer, a Maui native and King Kekaulike High School graduate. He said Sawyer attended some college on the Mainland and works for her mother.

Judge Blaine Kobayashi set Sawyer’s bail at $55,000. He ordered that if released, she not associate with Vance and Sobel and stay away from the Pukalani branch of First Hawaiian Bank.

Rego said an investigation is continuing in another robbery of the same bank branch that occurred Jan. 24 when a gunman fled with an undisclosed amount of cash. No one has been arrested in that robbery.

* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at lfujimoto@mauinews.com.