Photo: Luis de la Garza: Mesh Mask Bandit
This week Texas FBI captured the prolific bank robber dubbed the “Mesh Mask Bandit” who is tied to at least 19 bank robberies in northern Texas.
Former Latino community leader and immigrants-right advocate, Luis de La Garza has been fingered as the “Mesh Mask Bandit”. He was given that name for the mesh masks he wore to carry out his bank robberies.
De La Garza, 59, has been charged with robbing the Wells Fargo Bank near his home on April 22. A sharp witness saw him put the mesh mask on before the robbery and take it off after. The witness identified De La Garza from a police lineup.
De la Garza, a Mexican immigrant, had been very active in immigration issues in Farmers Branch, Texas where he has lived for at least a decade. His Wikipedia page says he was born in Mexico City.
Latino activists he worked with considered him “one of the most dynamic local leaders.” He was admired across the border as well, having been invited to the inauguration of President Felipe Calderon in 2006. He also worked with the administration of former Mexican President Vicente Fox on immigrant advocacy issues.
Reports indicate his legal woes started in 2005 when he pled guilty to failing to file a corporate tax return. Others say it started before that, when he was operating the local Spanish-language TV station and failed to pay his employees. Most recently he was charged with shoplifting over $200 worth of items from a Dallas Wal-Mart.
Today De la Garza is charged with bank robbery and authorities are working on tying him to at least 18 other robberies in North Texas. The robberies were all similar says the FBI – the bandit walks into a bank wearing his trademark mask covering his face, shows a gun to the teller, demands cash and runs off. Authorities believe the first bank heist by the ‘Mesh Mask Bandit’ occurred on New Year’s Eve.
The FBI had billboards up throughout the area asking for help and are offering a $20,000 reward for information leading to an arrest of the masked bandit.
Meanwhile the Latino community in North Texas is wondering what happened to De La Garza that his ‘immigrant living the American Dream life’ took such a wrong turn.