- Associated Press - Friday, September 24, 2010

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) — 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 shirtless 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” that were being examined for evidence.

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 held the man’s father hostage. All three made a clean getaway.

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.

The robbers apparently relied on the teller’s fear of a possible explosion and the potential danger to his father to ensure he would do their bidding inside the building.

“It is an unusual event to have explosives strapped to a victim and sent in,” said Dena Choucair, assistant special agent in charge of the FBI’s Miami field office.

There was nothing to link the robbery to others in the area, but investigators were pursuing all possible leads, Choucair said.

Police did not immediately release the teller’s name, or officially clear him of wrongdoing, though he was described as a victim.

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 red 1998 Ford Mustang, license tag R958DY.

Initial reports that there were hostages in the bank were unfounded, but the incident triggered a massive police response because of the possible explosive. Only the teller and the branch manager were inside the bank.

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.”

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Associated Press writers Curt Anderson and Travis Reed contributed to this story.