Published February 13, 2008
AUSTIN, Tex. – Austin police say the "ponytail bandit" — accused of committing a series of bank robberies with her hair pulled back through a baseball cap — has been arrested.
Morgan Michelle Hoke, 21, was taken into custody by Royal Thai Police in Thailand and is awaiting deportation. Her husband, 26-year-old Stuart Michael Romine, who is believed to have been an accomplice in her crimes and was traveling with her, is not in custody.
Hoke is accused of robbing a Wachovia Bank in Northwest Austin last May. The two have been living in Thailand, according to Austin police Sgt. Art Arevalo, the lead robbery investigator.
"There are personal reasons they are there," said Arevalo. While he would not detail them, Arevalo said, the two had "individual lifestyle preferences" that led them to Thailand where the drug and sex scene is well-known.
Police tell FOX News that four days after the first robbery, the two married in Las Vegas. After another robbery, the couple enjoyed a vacation in Europe. "They lived the good life over there," Arevalo said. Police believe that same lust for the good life prompted them to head to Thailand in mid-January.
It is unlikely the two stole enough money to support their lifestyle, Arevalo said. But Hoke, who is from Louisiana and has family in Texas, has other financial resources. "Her family does have money and she has access to that through legitimate means," Arevalo said.
The “ponytail bandit” is also linked to other robberies across the country, including at banks in Roseville, Calif., and Lynwood, Wash.
On Jan. 17, a confidential informant in Roseville told California police Hoke was the "pony tail bandit" and was traveling with a man. The couple's identity had remained a mystery to investigators until the source came forward. "It came together like a big puzzle," Arevalo said.
The next day, investigators say, the couple fled the United States by plane on Jan. 18, traveling under their own names with U.S. passports.
Procedures put in place since 9/11 allowed federal authorities to track their movements from Atlanta to Seoul, South Korea and then to Thailand. "Moving around is more difficult now than it was before," Arevalo said.
Police hinted that the two have had brushes with the law in the past. Now with Hoke arrested, "It is not going to be a surprise to their families," Arevalo said.