Two area men arrested in bank robbery
Police have arrested and charged two area men — including one previously convicted of bank robbery — in connection with a Thursday morning bank heist.
Clifford “Cliff” Hansford, 55, of the 900 block of Marks Road, Cameron, and Michael Smith, 59, of the 1100 block of Crest Street, Sanford, were each charged with common law robbery, felony conspiracy to commit common law robbery and felony possession of stolen goods, according to court documents.
Sanford Police Capt. David Smith said the PNC Bank, located at 338 Carthage St., was robbed at 9:11 a.m., and an undisclosed amount of money was taken. Smith said he couldn’t comment on whether the suspects were armed, but there were no reported injuries at the bank.
PNC Vice President and Senior Manager of External Communications Marcy Zwiebel said she couldn’t comment on the incident and referred questions to the local police department.
Hansford was charged in connection with a Sanford bank robbery in 2001 and a second bank robbery in Wake County, Smith said. Hansford was tried and sentenced in federal court, Smith said.
“My concern is why’s this man walking the streets after (these) bank robberies,” Smith said.
Officers swarmed Spring Lane Galleria until 11 a.m. after police learned the suspects bought gas at the Lowes Foods gas station. Officers spent the better half of the morning combing through stores and blocking off the entrances to the Galleria in search of the suspects while checking vacant cars, nearby bushes and trash receptacles for information or evidence that might have been tossed away.
One man was detained and questioned inside of Lowes Foods, located at 818 Spring Lane, but was determined not to be the suspect, Smith said.
Lowes Foods Store Manager Rob Beasley said he couldn’t comment on the incident.
Police had a description of the suspect’s vehicle — a red Nissan Pathfinder — and choked off the main routes in and out of the city, Smith said. The two men were arrested shortly before noon without incident, and money was found on them, he said.
“The whole force worked tirelessly until we apprehended these guys,” Smith said. “The citizens and witnesses were extremely helpful.”
Lee County Schools Public Information Officer Sharon Spence said coincidentally, the middle and elementary schools were participating in a prearranged safety lockdown drill Thursday that was not caused by the robbery.
According to the N.C. Department of Corrections, Hansford served more than 13 years in jail after being convicted of first-degree burglary and second-degree rape in 1981, and two months in jail after being convicted of breaking and entering in 1976.
Michael Smith has a lengthy criminal record dating back to 1979, including convictions of shoplifting, larceny, selling a controlled substance, possession of a controlled substance, resisting an officer, trespassing, assault on a female and forgery, according to the N.C. Department of Corrections.