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McD’s robbery an inside job

Police arrest cashier who was ‘robbed’ at gunpoint

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McD’s robbery an inside job

Manteca Police sergeant Chris Mraz arrests 24-year-old Jennifer Banicki Friday outside of the McDonald’s on Lathrop Road. Police investigators believe that she was part of a team that staged an arm...

JASON CAMPBELL/The Bulletin/


POSTED August 24, 2013 2:18 a.m.

The truck was a different color, but Manteca Police detectives were reasonably sure they had the guy they thought was responsible for the bold midweek armed robbery of a northeastern Manteca McDonald’s when they spotted him driving Friday morning.

They quickly found out that the armed robbery was nothing but an illusion – learning that the shotgun stickup in the restaurant’s drive-thru that ended allegedly with 25-year-old Jeffrey Wilhite tearing across the landscaped median to get away with an undisclosed amount of cash was an orchestrated effort between the man and a McDonald’s employee who had coordinated with him to split the proceeds.

Jennifer Banicki, 24, was arrested without incident Friday afternoon after arriving at work. She was working the cash drawer just after 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday when Wilhite allegedly pulled up in his flat-black 1980s Ford F-150, produced a note and a sawed-off shotgun, and demanded the money from her till.

Police had been tipped off to her involvement after Manteca street crimes detectives Armen Avakian and Ian Osborn spotted what looked like the vehicle described by witnesses on North Main Street. It had been partially repainted. Wilhite was found to have several outstanding warrants. When police searched his home they found evidence that somebody that worked at the restaurant was involved in the theft of the money with him.

“Unfortunately it no longer becomes an armed robbery because there was no fear or force, even with the gun,” Manteca street crimes sergeant Chris Mraz said. “But we do have a whole host of other felony counts that we’re able to book both of them on.”

Mraz said that detectives investigating the matter were able to link Wilhite and his vehicle to the scene through footage obtained by security cameras on-site. His face was partially obstructed by a baseball cap that was pulled down low.

While he couldn’t say is why investigators had pursued the hunch about whether there was an inside person involved, Mraz did say that they “followed all possibilities.”

Both Banicki and Wilhite are being held at the San Joaquin County Jail on charges of burglary, being armed in the commission of a felony, grand theft, embezzlement and conspiracy. Wilhite will also have to answer for the outstanding drug warrants he was picked up on as well.

Upon searching his house detectives also discovered a small amount of methamphetamine.  The money that was stolen – an amount that has not been disclosed – has not yet been recovered.

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