‘Freedom Fighter Bandit’ indicted by federal grand jury in Tennessee


Federal prosecutors wasted no time bringing charges against the alleged serial bank robber dubbed the “Freedom Fighter Bandit.”

Nilsa Marie Urena, 25, was indicted Wednesday, five days after her arrest following her latest heist in Crossville, Tenn., according to the U.S. District Court in middle Tennessee. The FBI believes Urena, of Philadelphia, is responsible for multiple bank robberies across metro Atlanta since Oct. 30, although federal charges for those crimes have not been filed. 

She appeared in a Nashville courtroom Thursday, but was not granted bond. She will be held in Tennessee until a trial can be scheduled.

Following her arrest on Saturday afternoon, Urena admitted her involvement in the robberies, a criminal complaint states.

“When interviewed, Urena made several admissions concerning her involvement in both the robbery of the bank in Crossville, Tennessee and the bank robberies in Georgia,” the complaint, filed in federal court, reads. “Her statements were consistent with the robberies in both Crossville, Tennessee and Georgia.”

So far, federal charges have been filed against her only in Tennessee. But Urena has an outstanding warrant in Douglas County, where she was indicted in November on charges of armed robbery, terroristic threats, and hoax devices, the District Attorney’s Office said.

If convicted, Urena faces up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

The Freedom Fighter Bandit earned her nickname because she told bank tellers she needed the cash for various social causes, the FBI has said. She also threatened to blow up the banks.

Investigators identified Urena as the robber before she was captured. After robbing Georgia’s Own Credit Union in Grayson on Nov. 3, investigators believe she drove to a Bank of the Ozarks branch in Douglasville. Later that night, two teenagers believed involved with the Douglasville robbery were arrested, according to police, and the pair identified Urena as the robber.

The bandit has been credited with eight bank robberies since Oct. 30, according to investigators. The same woman is believed responsible for robberies ranging from Loganville to Lithonia and Comer, about 20 miles northeast of Athens.

Around 11:20 a.m. Saturday, Urena allegedly entered the Upper Cumberland Federal Credit Union in Crossville, located about 90 minutes from Nashville, according to investigators. Inside, the suspect handed the teller a note that read “Bomb; 20 minutes; no cops; Allah,” police said.

The robbery suspect was gone when officers arrived. But surveillance cameras from local businesses helped investigators locate a tag number on the alleged getaway vehicle, court documents show. Urena allegedly hired a driver to pick her up near the bank and take her to the Nashville Greyhound station, according to police.

The driver, whose name was not released, was not aware that his client was a robbery suspect and told police the woman’s information could be found on his home computer, investigators said. Police were able to determine Urena requested the driver take her to Nashville.

“The driver of the white vehicle continued to send text message updates to the officers as he drove towards Nashville with the robbery suspect in the backseat,” the criminal complaint against Urena states. “The text messages advised officers of the estimated time of arrival and described the drop-off point.”

Urena was arrested across the street from the Greyhound station, according to police. 




Next Up in Local

A decade later, Russian couple discover their dead infant son is actually alive
A decade later, Russian couple discover their dead infant son is actually alive

For nearly a decade, a Russian couple believed their infant son was dead. Instead, they discovered the child is alive; an “administrative mix-up” led to miscommunication. In 2011, the couple, who live in Volgograd, were told by their doctor that their newborn boy would die within the week, The Independent reported. Believing that their...
Atlanta’s flirting with record temps again 
Atlanta’s flirting with record temps again 

Today: Partly cloudy. High: 79 Tonight: Showers possible. Low: 60 Tomorrow: Partly cloudy. High: 78 After two days of record-breaking warmth, “we’re working into the record range again,” Channel 2 Action News meteorologist Karen Minton said. In fact, record temps could continue into Saturday, when mostly dry weather is expected, the...
DeKalb: Bill to create city of Vista Grove filed in House
DeKalb: Bill to create city of Vista Grove filed in House

Rep. Tom Taylor has filed legislation to create the city of Vista Grove in a footprint similar to a previous cityhood effort that failed. Vista Grove would be comprised of neighborhoods that are south of Brookhaven, Chamblee and Doraville and north of Tucker. The proposal leave out some neighborhoods that voted against creating the city of LaVista...
Veteran claims homeless woman she invited into home stole her car
Veteran claims homeless woman she invited into home stole her car

A military veteran thought she was being a good Samaritan when she invited a homeless woman into her California home to avoid cold weather. Instead, she is lamenting the loss of her car, which she alleges the homeless woman took, KRON reported. Sharon Larson, 69, said she saw a homeless woman outside a McDonald’s restaurant in Fairfield...
Pennsylvania school district officials cancel classes over potential threat
Pennsylvania school district officials cancel classes over potential threat

Officials in a school district in Pennsylvania decided to cancel classes for Friday after an alleged threat was found at a high school. The Greater Latrobe School District announced that a note was found in a bathroom at Greater Latrobe Senior High School, school officials said. The note was scribbled on a bathroom wall and mentioned Friday's date...
More Stories