Man’s features give him away in video; 2 arrested

WAILUKU – Information from someone who recognized a bank robber’s hairline and stance in surveillance photos led to the arrest of two Upcountry men, who were charged with felony offenses in connection with the robbery Tuesday of the Pukalani branch of First Hawaiian Bank.

Richard “Ricky” Vance, 25, of Kula and Michael S. Sobel, 28, of Pukalani were arrested Wednesday evening.

Police charged both men Thursday with first-degree robbery, kidnapping and first-degree terroristic threatening.

During their initial appearances Friday afternoon in Wailuku District Court, the prosecution said it would go forward with the robbery and terroristic threatening charges.

Bail was set at $105,000 each for Vance and Sobel.

The robbery occurred around 3:05 p.m. Tuesday when a gunman entered the bank and ordered customers to the ground, threatening to kill them if they didn’t comply, police said. The robber had a bag that he took to each teller’s window and demanded money.

He left with an unknown amount of cash and was seen getting onto the back of a dirt bike operated by another man in the back parking area of the bank at 67 Makawao Ave., police said.

The dirt bike was seen speeding up Old Haleakala Highway from Makawao Avenue and heading toward Kula Highway, according to an affidavit filed in court to support the arrests.

The day after the robbery, police received information from someone who saw bank surveillance photos distributed to the media and recognized Vance as the robber, in part because of his hairline, shaped eyebrows and stance, according to the affidavit. Police made contact with others who also recognized Vance as the robber who entered the bank, and learned that he and his 20-year-old girlfriend were staying at the Westin Maui Resort & Spa in Kaanapali, the affidavit says.

On Wednesday evening, police arrested Vance and the woman as they were arriving at the hotel in her red Toyota Corolla. She was released pending further investigation of first-degree hindering prosecution.

Her car was seized and towed to the Wailuku Police Station until a search warrant could be executed. Police reported recovering money from the robbery and evidence connecting Vance to the robbery when officers executed a warrant to search the hotel room where the couple was staying.

Also on Wednesday evening, police located and arrested Sobel at his residence on Aliiolani Street. Police recovered some of the money stolen in the robbery and Sobel’s yellow, black and white dirt bike, which was in a storage building on the property, according to the court affidavit.

According to the affidavit, Vance gave some of the stolen money to Sobel. Vance and his girlfriend used some of the money to buy clothing at Macy’s and to check into the Westin, according to the affidavit.

While admitting to robbing the bank, Vance told police he didn’t have a gun but carried a folding knife that appeared to be the butt of a handgun, the affidavit says.

In court Friday afternoon, Deputy Public Defender Zach Raidmae asked that bail be reduced to $50,000 each for Vance and Sobel. Both men were born and raised on Maui, Raidmae said.

While Vance is unemployed, Sobel does part-time tile work, Raidmae said. Police listed Sobel’s occupation as a self-employed fruit picker.

Deputy Prosecutor John Tam argued against reducing bail for Vance and Sobel.

“The safety of the community is involved,” Tam said.

In addition, he said Vance faces a mandatory prison term if he is convicted of the robbery.

Wailuku District Judge Adrianne Heely ordered both men to stay away from the Pukalani branch of First Hawaiian Bank.

According to the Hawaii Criminal Justice Data Center, Vance’s criminal history includes 13 convictions for offenses including third-degree promotion of a dangerous drug, possessing drug paraphernalia, unauthorized control of a propelled vehicle, second-degree criminal property damage, second-degree bail jumping, second-degree theft and second-degree criminal property damage.

In January 2010, Vance was sentenced to five years’ probation on drug charges.

Sobel has six convictions for offenses including drunken driving, driving without a license and contempt of court, according to the state data center.

* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at