Man linked to bank robberies apprehended

Robert Koch

The suspect in three bank robberies over the past three weeks — including the July 26 holdup of the Associated Bank in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood — was apprehended Monday after confessing to a suburban pastor.
Michael Sell, 30, of Anoka was charged Monday with Saturday’s robbery of the Cub Foods branch TCF National Bank Minnesota in Coon Rapids, according to the federal criminal complaint.
FBI officials also hold him responsible for the Aug. 4 robbery of the Wells Fargo Bank in Anoka and the Cedar-Riverside holdup.
“The robberies were similar, and the notes, and how they were written,” said FBI Special Agent Paul McCabe.
In the Cedar-Riverside robbery, the suspect handed a teller a threatening note that implied he had a gun before fleeing with $2,000. Sell allegedly used the same trick in Saturday’s robbery by presenting a teller a note demanding cash, adding that he had a gun and was “not afraid to use it.”
Tips received from local television news viewers and bank surveillance photographs aided in Sell’s identification and arrest.
“We were looking for him,” McCabe said. “He pretty much knew it.”
FBI agents identified Sell as early as Saturday evening. But a chain of events the following day at a Columbia Heights church actually led to Sell’s arrest.
Pastor David Briley of the Oak Hill Baptist Church, who is also a retired Anoka County Sheriff’s Office captain, said a police squad car on routine patrol caused Sell to walk into the church during services and lock himself in a classroom.
“He was afraid that the cops were going to come in and get him,” Briley said. “We talked through the door the entire time. He said he was wanted for bank robbery. When I found that out, I called 9-1-1.”
Briley said Sell agreed to turn himself in to Columbia Heights police and the FBI.
“I strongly believe God brought him here for a purpose,” Briley added.

Robert Koch covers police and courts and welcomes comments at [email protected]