‘Chameleon Bandit’ convicted of robbing Point Loma bank
by NEAL PUTNAM
Published - 02/06/18 - 01:10 PM | 1544 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Blue tinted monotone image of a gavel and scales of justice
Blue tinted monotone image of a gavel and scales of justice
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A jury Monday convicted a man who was nicknamed the “Chameleon Bandit” of robbing two tellers at a Point Loma bank as well as holding up nine other tellers in other banks.

The eight woman, four man jury deliberated 9 1/4 hours over three days before convicting Darius Demon Lake, 29, of El Cajon, in San Diego Superior Court.

Lake got the nickname because of his changing appearances in robberies that occurred in Oct., 2017.

The net loss to all six banks was $16,801.

Two tellers were held up Oct. 12, 2017 at the Pacific Western Bank, located at 1661 Rosecrans St. The other banks were located in El Cajon, Chula Vista, and San Marcos.

Jurors deadlocked 6-6 on two robbery charges in which the tellers could not identify Lake as the bandit when they were held up on Oct. 10 in El Cajon.

Lake has a hearing Friday before Judge Robert O’Neill which involves his three prior convictions for robbing banks in 2012 in U.S. District Court. Lake has waived having a jury trial to determine whether the prior convictions are valid.

O’Neill will look at federal documents to see if the convictions are valid as this will affect the sentence Lake will receive.

Deputy District Attorney Lucille Yturralde said Lake could get a maximum term of 125 years to life in prison. Since Lake is a third strike defendant, he faces 25 years to life for five banks he was convicted of robbing.

Yturralde told jurors that Lake used the money to buy $180 lap dances, and purchases of jewelry and champagne. Jurors got to see bank camera videos, and the prosecutor noted a cursive tattoo on Lake’s neck was seen on bank camera photos.

His attorney, Jeremy Thornton, argued Lake did not commit any of the hold-ups and was only arrested because of his past bank robbery convictions.

Thornton showed photos of Lake’s wrist, which was heavily tattooed, and bank photos of the robber’s wrist, which did not show the tattoos--possibly because of the lighting.

Lake’s palm print on a bank counter was mentioned by the prosecutor as a key piece of evidence, but Thornton urged jurors not to consider it because he said it was altered.

Thornton argued that none of the witnesses recalled seeing his tattoos. Yturralde argued that witnesses were “frightened for their life” and Lake was moving too fast for them to focus on tattoos.

FBI special agent Alex Esconde testified the series was called the “Chameleon Bandit” because “it looked like he was changing his appearance.”

The bandit wore a hard hat in only the first robbery, and different styles in clothing in later hold-ups, said Esconde.

Lake did not testify in the trial that began Jan. 25. He was also convicted of attempted robbery in one incident in which there was no loss. He remains in jail on $500,000 bail.
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