A man charged with robbing the same San Ramon bank twice claims drug dealers made him commit the holdups.
Benjamin Matthew Kairalla, 35, of Loxahatchee, Fla., was arrested after a fingerprint match and surveillance footage linked him to the robberies, police said.
Kairalla told San Ramon police, who picked him up in Florida, that "two different drug dealers who kept most of the money, forced him to commit the robberies," federal court documents say.
He told detectives that "he received approximately $1,000 and a quantity of heroin," for a July 1 holdup at Bank of the West at 140 Sunset Drive, and "enough money for a ticket to Florida and a quantity of heroin" for a Dec. 6 robbery of the same bank.
San Ramon police detectives traveled to Florida on Jan. 8 to interview Kairalla, who was already in custody there on five drug-related warrants.
According to documents filed Jan. 28 in U.S. District Court in Oakland, Kairalla netted more than $10,000 in the robberies -- $5,073 in July and $5,345 in December.
In the first holdup, he told a teller, "I am sorry I have to do this, but my life is on the line, and "said something like 'the people' were watching him," according to an affidavit filed by FBI Special Agent Todd Dorman.
In the second, according to Dorman, Kairalla handed a note reading, "I have a weapon, put the money in the bag."
Kairalla also left both tellers shaken, Dorman's statement says.
The teller in the first robbery "was pale and shaking" and "overcome with fear." The teller in the December holdup "appeared shocked and flustered and his face was red following the robbery," Dorman said in his affidavit.
Kairalla was traced after police recovered a fingerprint after he touched a glass door on the way out of the first robbery, according to authorities.
After San Ramon police got Kairalla's confession, they arrested him on two counts of robbery and handed the case over to the FBI.
He remains held without bail and faces up to 20 years in federal prison and $250,000 in fines if convicted.