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Preliminary hearing set in Snowboard Bandit bank robbery suspect

March 15 hearing set for suspect in three Coachella Valley bank robberies

INDIO, Calif. - A March 15 preliminary hearing date was set today for the alleged "snowboarder bandit," who is suspected in three Coachella Valley bank robberies.

Michael Brandon Franks, a 30-year-old Riverside resident, is charged with three counts each of robbery and burglary and one count of attempted robbery. Franks, who was on the FBI's most wanted list in Southern California, has also been accused of robbing nine banks in Orange County.

The preliminary hearing will determine if there is enough evidence for Franks to proceed to trial.

The "snowboarder bandit" moniker stemmed from the suspect's youthful appearance and the knit hats and ski clothes he allegedly wore during the holdups.

Franks is accused of robbing a First California Bank branch in Palm Desert on May 4, a BBVA Compass branch in Palm Springs on April 20 and a Chase bank in Rancho Mirage on April 11 -- all in 2012.

Franks was previously arrested on May 4 last year, but only on charges of robbing banks in Orange County. He was out on bail when he was arrested again later that month.

Franks was charged in Orange County with 10 counts of robbery and two counts of attempted robbery in connection with 10 holdups at nine banks. The robberies netted about $30,000 from Dec. 20, 2011, through March 21 of last year, according to the Orange County District Attorney's Office. The Schools First Federal Credit Union branch in Anaheim was hit twice, according to prosecutors.

Franks was also suspected of robbing a bank in Ventura County, according to the FBI.

FBI Special Agent Chris Gicking said a surveillance camera photo from a holdup in Palm Springs was especially helpful in identifying the suspect, who had ditched the ski hat in favor of a large motorcycle helmet in several recent holdups.

In the Palm Springs robbery, the suspect donned a baseball cap without sunglasses, as he had in past robberies, Gicking said.

Franks is free on a $500,000 bond.

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