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Judge orders Miami attorney accused of bank robberies held before trial

Miami Herald logo Miami Herald 10/23/2020 Jay Weaver and David Neal, The Miami Herald

Just days ago, Miami attorney Aaron Honaker was listed as a “member in good standing” by the Florida Bar, while he claimed in his bio to have graduated from Duke University’s prestigious law school.

On Friday, the 41-year-old Honaker faced a federal magistrate judge on charges of carrying out a series of bank robberies in Coral Gables and Aventura. Magistrate Judge Alica Otazo-Reyes ordered that Honaker be held before trial because she found he is a flight risk. After he quit practicing law last year, he traveled extensively, including to his girlfriend’s native country, Columbia.

The judge did not address the prosecution’s other claim that he was a danger to the community because it wasn’t necessary after her flight-risk decision. “I find detention appropriate,” she said, rejecting bail for Honaker before trial.

Honaker’s arraignment on two counts of bank robbery and four counts of attempted bank robbery is scheduled for Jan. 25.

At Friday’s detention hearing, the U.S. Attorney’s Office highlighted Honaker’s bizarre detour from practicing law to robbing banks, pointing out that he said he had a gun in a note during one of his alleged robbery attempts. Moreover, when he was arrested by Coral Gables police Tuesday, Honaker had a hammer in his waistband.

“He committed these crimes out of desperation,’’ Assistant U.S. Attorney Lauren Astigarraga said, arguing that Honaker, as a lawyer, would be inclined to leave the country because he knows he’s facing a potentially long prison sentence.

But a lawyer with the federal public defender’s office, Kristen Brown, said Honaker would not flee the country because his girlfriend was born in Colombia but lives in Miami.

Honaker, who in reality graduated from Wake Forest University’s law school, not Duke’s, has had a desultory career with a handful white-shoe law firms in Miami, starting with behemoth Greenberg Taurig more than a decade ago.

Here’s a list of Honaker’s bank robbery attempts, according to an FBI criminal complaint, which note that the lawyer only approached female tellers.

▪ Sept. 30 — Citibank, 396 Alhambra Circle, Coral Gables.

The criminal complaint says Honaker, described as a 6-foot white male in his 30s, sat in the lobby for 15 minutes. He eventually handed a handwritten note to a teller warning against touching the alarm or calling the police while he asked for $10,000.

The teller said she told him she “didn’t have the money; it is in the machine.” Honaker left the bank with only his note.

Here’s Honaker’s bank robbery attempts, according to the FBI criminal complaint filed after the lawyer’s arrest Tuesday:

▪ Oct. 3 — Chase, 20880 Biscayne Blvd., Aventura.

The complaint says Honaker told the teller he wanted to make a withdrawal, but lacked his debit card. He said, however, this note he was handing her would have instructions on how to help him withdraw cash. This time, the note requested all the $50 bills and $100 bills in the teller’s drawer be put in an envelope.

The teller did as asked. Honaker left with his note and $1,050.

▪ Oct. 5 — Wells Fargo, 2555 Ponce De Leon Blvd., Coral Gables.

This time, the complaint says, Honaker donned “a floppy hat and a blue, short-sleeved shirt” but kept a similar note. This one said, “Keep calm and give me all the money in the drawer. I have a gun.”

▪ Oct. 10 — Chase, 355 Alhambra Circle, Coral Gables.

The complaint says Honaker went back to asking for “$50s and $100s.” And he walked out with $800.

▪ Thursday, Oct. 15 — HSBC, 2222 Ponce De Leon Blvd., Coral Gables.

This time, the complaint says, Honaker’s note confused the teller.

The teller “glanced at the note and, without realizing its true meaning, asked [Honaker] to fill out a withdrawal slip first because she needed an account number.”

So, Honaker did. On the withdrawal slip, he wrote, “read the note.” The note asked for all $100s, $50s and $20s.

The teller told Honaker, “The bank kept its cash in counting machines” so she couldn’t give him what he wanted, according to the complaint.

He left the bank empty-handed.

Honaker was also charged with attempted robbery at a TD Bank in Coral Gables where police arrested him while he was casing out the place, according to the FBI complaint.

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©2020 Miami Herald

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