Ridwaan Domingo awoke the morning of June 3, 2002, to the sound of FBI agents banging on his door.
Domingo was a U.K.-raised, boarding-school-educated son of a successful South African businessman. He’d relocated to the States to work for his father’s company more than a decade earlier, which is where he met Patrice, the beautiful blonde sleeping next to him.
Together they had a daughter, Angelique, whom they affectionately called “Chummy,” and lived in a sunny yellow house on 6.5 acres of land, surrounded by 600 orange trees. Their life in San Diego—”America’s finest city,” as Domingo called it, without a trace of irony—seemed near-perfect.
But Domingo—and the FBI agents standing on his porch—knew something no one else in the house did: The 36-year-old computer programmer was also the notorious “Easy Rider bandit,” wanted for robbing 12 banks in Southern California.
The arrival of the FBI agents that morning set off a chain of events that would keep the family apart for years. Two decades later, Domingo is out of prison, desperate to reunite with his wife and child, and telling his side of the story—including the surprising reason he went from bank worker to bank robber.
Domingo was born in Cape Town, South Africa, in 1964, to Black parents raised during apartheid. He still maintains the marble-mouthed Afrikaans accent, blended with a soft British lilt. That’s because, at the age of 3, the biochemical company where his father worked relocated them to Abergavenny, Wales, where they lived a relatively normal middle-class life. On his new podcast, Time With Mr. Reed, he describes it as a “wonderful childhood” without “a care in the world.”
That is, until a few years later, when Domingo’s father quit the biotech company and started his own firm, Biozyme, skyrocketing the family to financial success. All of a sudden, Domingo claims, he was living in a “massive” Edwardian house with a pool and driving imported BMWs. Previously public-school educated, he was suddenly enrolled in the top-tier boarding school Monmouth School for Boys. “That was just Lifestyles Of The Rich and Famous, as far as I was concerned,” Domingo said of his new lifestyle on the podcast.
Even early on, Domingo had a penchant for trouble. Although he showed academic promise and made house prefect, the 17-year-old was suspended from Monmouth for leaving campus while on probation. His parents revoked his driving privileges after he flipped their Renault 5 Turbo speeding down a country road that same year. Further upsetting his parents, he enrolled in a technical institute instead of a four-year university after high school and dropped out after two years.
Still, Domingo’s father wasn’t ready to give up on him. In 1986, when Domingo was 21, his father offered him a job digitizing Biozyme’s records systems. The job came with a reasonable salary and relocation to sunny San Diego. Domingo readily accepted.
The Love Story
Domingo says he fit in well in SoCal, despite his funny accent and stuffy British English. He made two close friends at the local gym, which is where he also met Patrice, his “gorgeous California blonde.” Patrice was five years older, with three kids from a previous marriage. But despite “all these negative factors,” he says on the podcast, he quickly fell in love. The two got married in 1993, in a Little Church of the West wedding in Las Vegas, and moved into the charming, orange-tree-studded home she’d shared with her previous husband.
That’s when things got complicated. Domingo says his father offered to pay him a full-time salary while he obtained his degree at Cal State San Marcos, with the condition that he return to work at the family business when he was done. But when Domingo graduated, he informed his father he would not relocate to the U.K. His father informed him he would no longer have a job. Suddenly, Domingo’s nepo-baby salary was gone.
Around the same time, Domingo and his wife decided to try for a baby. They were both young and healthy, but Patrice had undergone a tubal ligation after her third child. Domingo says doctors assured them they would be able to conceive easily using in-vitro fertilization, then a new technology in which the egg and sperm are combined outside the womb and then implanted into the uterus. The cost? Upwards of $15,000 a cycle.
Domingo took a raft of odd jobs to cover the bills, but never seemed to find his footing. He and his wife started a lucrative lunch delivery service that ended after a larger company came down from Los Angeles and put them out of business. Domingo tried selling cars and even growing weed in an attempt to raise money. At one point, he lost $85,000—including $20,000 he’d borrowed from his father—in a failed attempt at day trading.
At the same time, the IVF bills were stacking up. Despite Patrice’s health and youth, the treatments simply weren’t working. Doctors put her on the highest possible doses of hormonal medication, Domingo says—thick needles he administered multiple times per day, full of drugs that made her feel languid and sick—but she never got pregnant.
“I was never given a definitive reason as to why we weren’t achieving success, so I thought, ‘Dammit, we are going to make this work,’” Domingo told The Daily Beast. “I wanted to have that manifestation of Patrice and my love.”
The couple tried nine rounds of IVF, even visiting experts in Los Angeles and the U.K., before Patrice finally got pregnant with Angelique. By that time, they were $250,000 in debt.
Domingo says he never even thought about robbing a bank until he started working at one.
In 1999, he completed a six-week computer programming course and was hired to the IT department at the San Diego County Credit Union. The pay was steady, but not enough—the couple had to take out three mortgages on their home and pawn their wedding bands to help pay off their debts. Patrice, a former aerobics instructor and gym manager, was so sick from the hormones that she couldn’t work to help support them. At one point, Domingo says, he was so desperate he considered suicide.
As part of his new job orientation, Domingo says, he received formal training on what to do if the bank was ever robbed: Do as the robber tells you, put the money in the bag, and don’t ask questions. In his recollection, the point was to get the robber out of the bank as quickly as possible without escalating the situation. “It’s not your money, in essence, it’s not even really the bank’s money,” a bank executive tells trainees during a re-enactment in Domingo’s podcast. “Just give them the money.”
Domingo was agonizing over bills one night when he spotted his training manual on his desk. What started as a joking thought, he says, quickly evolved into a serious idea: You could rob a bank. He says he assumed no one would get hurt—after all, they’d all been instructed by the bank to comply with his directions. And he’d only have to do it once to get the $10,000 to cover that month’s bills.
So Domingo hatched a plan. He scouted the perfect location: a Washington Mutual branch about 20 minutes from his office, located near a three-way intersection that would make for an easy getaway. He printed out a demand letter, asking for money in hundreds, fifties, tens and twenties, so he wouldn’t have to speak to the teller in his unique accent. Then he grabbed what was to become his signature: Patrice’s striped motorcycle helmet, a red herring that would have police searching for a biker while he sped away in a car.
The first robbery went off without a hitch. The teller read his note and placed the money in the bag, and Domingo walked off calmly and drove right back to work. He changed back into his suit and tie in the car. In his telling, no one in the office noticed anything was amiss. When he counted the money later, it was exactly what he needed: a little more than $10,000.
So, despite telling himself this was a one-time deal, Domingo did it again. And again, and again, and again. According to a criminal complaint filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in South California, Domingo robbed nine banks over the course of a year, making off with more than $64,000. (Domingo says it was actually 12 banks, but that some were in other jurisdictions.)
There were mishaps along the way, many of which he recounts in his podcast, like the time a dye pack exploded in his money bag, blasting pepper spray in his eye and leaving all of his money a scarlet-letter red. (He says he laundered the money with bleach and told the teller who deposited the cash that it was stained by wet swimming trunks.) Once, he even picked up his daughter from daycare and left her sleeping in the back seat while he robbed a bank.
By July 2002, he’d gotten cocky and went back to the same Washington Mutual branch he’d robbed in his first heist. According to the criminal complaint, the teller saw his well-worn demand letter and realized she was being held up by the same man who’d burgled her a year earlier. She handed him the money but signaled to the security guard, who observed the bandit closely as he walked out. A passerby later told police he’d seen a man matching Domingo’s description walk to the parking lot, get into a white Ford pickup, and drive away.
What Domingo didn’t know was that his robbery at his first bank location would also be his last.
The FBI had been hunting the thief since at least October 2000, after his fourth suspected robbery. Matt Brown, the FBI agent assigned to the case at the time, told The Daily Beast that Domingo stood out for the number of banks he robbed—most suspects only robbed four or five—and for almost always targeting Washington Mutuals. That and, of course, the distinctive white motorcycle helmet he carried, for which they dubbed him the “Easy Rider bandit.”
Hoping to catch him in the act, the FBI sent out a notice to area banks with photos of the suspect from bank surveillance cameras. According to the criminal complaint, it was a bank teller at Domingo’s local Washington Mutual branch who recognized him as a customer and tipped off the feds.
A call to the credit union where Domingo worked revealed he had an “absence from work problem,” showing up anywhere from 15 minutes to two hours late. Agents posted up outside his gym and watched him arrive for class in a white Ford pickup—the model the bystander had observed peeling away from one robbery. They also reviewed the cash deposits into his bank accounts, many of which correlated with the date and amount of cash taken in the robberies. A financial analysis revealed the family was “living a lifestyle beyond their financial means,” according to the complaint.
As a final step, Brown drove by Domingo’s house to scope it out. When he saw a “for sale” sign outside—a last-ditch attempt by the couple to cover their bills, Domingo says in the podcast—he contacted the real estate agent and arranged for a viewing. Brown brought along a female agent who posed as his wife and distracted the agent while he poked around the house. When he got into the garage, he knew he’d hit the jackpot. In a loft above the garage were framed photos of Domingo and his wife with their motorcycles—and a distinctive white helmet.
“I said, ‘Aha, this has got to be him!’” Brown told The Daily Beast.
That is how federal agents wound up on Domingo’s doorstep that day in 2002—in his telling, with the red light of an automatic rifle pointed at his chest. The agents raided the house and found several items of clothing matching what the robber was seen wearing in security footage, including the motorcycle helmet. Agents questioned Patrice about whether the man in the security footage looked like her husband; she confirmed he did.
“Patrice indicated that her husband was in charge of the family’s finances and that although she knew that they were struggling financially, her husband had told her repeatedly that in addition to borrowing money from his father, he was also able to borrow money from friend to allow them to meet their financial obligations,” the complaint states.
According to Domingo, he and Patrice were allowed to share a shell-shocked hug before the agents whisked him away to lockup. He said he whispered in her ear: “I love you sweetheart, and everything is true.”
Domingo pleaded guilty to five counts of bank robbery, a decision he says he made partly so he could be freed earlier to see his daughter grow up. He served nearly four years in the notorious Terminal Island prison in Los Angeles, which once housed Charles Manson and Al Capone, and was released in 2005.
But Domingo says his time behind bars was not the worst of his punishment. About a month before his sentence was up, he learned he would be deported to the U.K. because of his criminal record. He and Patrice had always planned for him to come back to San Diego and be a part of Angelique’s life, and the couple was devastated.
In an especially ironic twist, Domingo says he originally applied to serve his prison term in the U.K., but the U.S. government turned him down, ruling that America was his place of residence.
“How convenient for them 30 days before my release to suddenly have a reconsider and say, ‘Oh you know what, you’re British!” he joked in an interview last week.
Back in the U.K., Domingo hatched a plan: Patrice and Angelique would come live with him overseas for 10 years, at which point he believed he’d be allowed back into the U.S. But in a replay of his bank-robbery days, this scheme didn’t go according to plan. Patrice and Angelique did move to the U.K. in 2010, but when Domingo applied for a visa to return to the U.S. in 2016, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services denied him.
By that time, Patrice had already moved back to the U.S. to prepare for his arrival. She offered to sponsor him for an immigrant visa, which was also denied. He filed for a waiver to wipe his criminal history from his immigration record in 2019, in hopes that would improve his chances of a visa. He waited through the backlogs caused by the pandemic and, in November 2022 received his final answer: a resounding no.
Domingo now sees his podcast as his last hope. He is praying that someone in U.S. political office will get wind of it and volunteer to advocate on his behalf, because, he says,“I do not feel the government will willingly change its position.”
Not everyone has been as sympathetic as Domingo hoped. When he appeared on the British interview program This Morning to promote his podcast, fans fumed that the hosts were giving a convicted criminal 15 minutes of fame. “Welcome to england, let’s rob a bank to get on telly,” one fan tweeted. “Poor people in the banks being robbed are now scarred all for the sake of him and his wife, horrible story,” another added. The only review for his podcast on Apple states: “Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time. Stay where you are.”
Domingo pushes back on the claim that he “scarred” any bank tellers, saying he designed his heists so they did not require the use of violence or threats. But he says he knows what he did was wrong, and he thinks every day of the people he hurt—not the least his wife and child.
Domingo didn’t actually tell his daughter the truth about his crimes until eight weeks ago, just before his podcast debuted. (During his prison stint, the couple told her he was away working on a boat. “How do you explain to a 4-year-old, ‘Your daddy robbed some banks and he’s going to prison?’” he asked.) When he finally came clean to Angelique, he says, she was tearful but understanding. Today, his biggest worry is that he won’t be able to walk her down the aisle at her wedding.
Looking back on it all, he says he has remorse but no regrets—since his life of crime gave birth to the most precious thing in his life.
“I’d do it all again if it would give me my Chummy,” he said. “I am the luckiest dad out there.”
The post The ‘Easy Rider’ Bandit Robbed 12 Banks. Now He Reveals Why. appeared first on The Daily Beast.