Tonawanda News

January 17, 2014

Man tied to Falls bank heists

By Rick Pfeiffer
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — NIAGARA FALLS — A Buffalo man, accused by the FBI  of robbing more banks than John Dillinger, will be charged in the December hold-up of a Falls bank branch.

Investigators also say that Michael “Max” Mitchell may have been involved in all four of the bank stick-ups in the Falls in 2013.

FBI agents and federal prosecutors say Mitchell, 21, was the leader of a gang made up of a dozen individuals that staged more than two dozen bank heists. The key, according to the agents, is that Mitchell orchestrated all the robberies, while committing three, including the Dec. 16 hold-up of the the First Niagara Bank branch in the 800 block of Main Street here, himself. 

“I don’t know if he’s been arraigned (in Falls City Court) yet, but we charging him (in the First Niagara robbery),” Falls Police Detective Lt. Mike Trane said Thursday night. “We had though he was involved in some of our other (2013) bank robberies as well.

Mitchell may have been behind the wheel of a gat-away car that fled from a botched robbery attempt at the Bank of America branch on Military Road on Aug. 7. Another Buffalo man, Allen Strain, 37, was arrested inside the bank and charged with attempted first-degree robbery,

Strain had walked into the bank and handed a teller a note demanding money. In the note, Strain claimed to have a gun but he never displayed one. 

The teller told Strain to wait while she gathered the money for him. She then activated the bank’s silent alarm. 

Police responded and took Strain into custody, but were unable to locate a suspected get-away car that had raced from the scene as they pulled up.

Federal law enforcement officials say Mitchell was the brains behind a robbery spree that started in April and continued right up until his arrest this week. He faces a maximum sentence of 20 years behind bars for the Falls hold-up and two others he is accused of committing.