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FBI: Robbers strap explosives to teller's chest

/ Source: NBC, and news services

A bank teller was kidnapped early Friday from his home by robbers who strapped a suspected bomb to his chest and used him to steal money from a Bank of America branch near the University of Miami, according to the FBI.

The suspected explosive device was safely removed and the teller was brought out of the bank shortly before noon. The FBI would not say whether it was a viable explosive, but said it contained "bomb-making materials."

Coral Gables police Chief Richard Naue said three men broke into the teller's home, holding him and his father hostage for several hours. Two of the men allegedly drove the teller to the bank, while the third remained with the man's father.

The alleged robbers never actually entered the bank. Naue said they sent the booby-trapped teller inside to retrieve an undisclosed amount of cash. The branch manager, who was the only other employee there before the bank opened, then called police.

"It is an unusual event to have explosives strapped to a victim and sent in," said Dena Choucair, assistant special agent for the FBI in Miami. "We do not have any information at this time that connects it to other robberies in the area, but we are pursuing all logical leads at this point."

The FBI questioned the teller, Diego Uscamayta, but he was cleared and released from custody late Friday.

A major South Florida thoroughfare, U.S. 1, was closed for hours in both directions at the height of rush hour. Three local schools were on lockdown as a precaution and the University of Miami sent out a campus-wide alert warning students and staff to avoid the area, although classes continued as usual.

The incident began early Friday with a home invasion at an apartment complex in the suburb of Kendall, where the bank teller lived, said FBI spokeswoman Judy Orihuela.

The robbers allegedly fled in a stolen 1998 Ford Mustang, license tag R958DY.

Initial reports that there were hostages in the bank appeared to be unfounded, but the incident triggered a massive police response because of the possible explosive.

Bank of America said in a statement that "the safety of our associates is our highest priority and Bank of America is working closely with law enforcement to assist in the situation."