An Oakland man convicted of committing 17 Northern California bank robberies, including in Palo Alto and Mountain View, and two attempted heists within one year — taking a total $69,002 — was sentenced in federal court in San Francisco on Wednesday.
Duane Makela, 50, was sentenced to eight years and one month in prison by U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer, who also ordered three years of supervised release after completion of the prison term.
Makela was indicted by a federal grand jury in May 2019 and pleaded guilty before Breyer last October to carrying out 10 armed robberies of banks and credit unions, seven unarmed robberies and two attempted bank robberies between March 2018 and February 2019.
One of the robberies happened on April 13, 2018 in downtown Palo Alto at the Comerica Bank at 250 Lytton Ave. while Makela was armed.
Another took place on Feb. 4, 2019 at the Wells Fargo Bank at 505 California Ave. off of El Camino Real, where he passed a demand note to a bank teller. The indictment indicated he took $2,843. Officers searched the area for Makela with assistance from a K9 unit but were unable to find him, police said at the time.
The Oakland man brandished a black handgun in the Mountain View robbery on Oct. 19, 2018 that took place at the Meriwest Credit Union at 580 N. Rengstorff Ave. near West Middlefield Road. The indictment revealed that he entered the bank around 5:45 p.m. and threatened two tellers, who obliged with his demands for money.
A note he dropped on his way out was retrieved by law enforcement with a message in all-capital letters:
"I have a gun, will use it.
Pass all $ now!
You deviate, I'll be back 4 U.
No alarms (sic) I'm watchin (sic) your hands
Dont (sic) even think bout (sic) button."
Defense attorneys said in a sentencing brief that Makela was addicted to heroin and methamphetamine at the time of the robberies.
The judge also ordered Makela to pay restitution to the robbed institutions, which included banks and credit unions in the East Bay, other parts of the Peninsula and towns in or near the Sierra Nevada.