Real Name: Francis C. Buhay
Wanted For: Armed Robbery
Missing Since: August 1996
Details: On December 21, 1995, twenty-two-year-old Francis Buhay and three other men wearing ski masks and brandishing guns entered the Great Western Bank in Cupertino, California. In full view of two security cameras, the men ordered all of the customers to the floor and demanded the keys to the vault. One of the robbers forced the bank teller supervisor to open the vault, from which they stole a total of $250,000. As they left the vault, the supervisor pulled a silent alarm latch.
The robbers left the bank with their money, but they didn't get away clean. Off-duty police officer John Sizemore spotted them carrying guns into the bank and called for help. When the backup didn't arrive, he started chasing the robbers himself. He followed them for twenty minutes; however, he had to fall back when they realized that he was following them. Fearing that they would try to shoot at him, John decided to go back to the bank and call the police.
San Jose police picked up the trail. They later located the getaway truck, parked outside of a modest home. The house's only occupant - a seventeen-year-old boy - was ordered out onto the lawn. He told police that the truck was a vehicle that his brother was driving. Moments later, his brother Joshua Cornelus returned. He was immediately taken into custody. The teller supervisor was brought to the scene and shown a "field lineup". She identified Cornelus as one of the suspects. She noted that he was wearing the same shoes that she had seen one of the robbers wearing.
Investigators linked Cornelus and his associates to another robbery in Sunnyvale that occurred just two weeks earlier. Surveillance video in that robbery showed the robbers wearing distinctive tennis shoes that were linked to Cornelus and the others. Twenty-four hours after taking Cornelus into custody, police arrested another robber: Jesse Gudao. However, two other robbers, Anthony Rosco and Francis Buhay, remained at large. Investigators also were unable to locate the stolen money.
On August 8, 1996, Buhay and Rosco struck again at the same Great Western bank in Sunnyvale. However, the robbery was interrupted by an alarm and Rosco was caught. Once again, Buhay slipped away. Investigators looked through his life and noted that he was an unlikely candidate to become a serial bank robber. He was the son of hard-working immigrants from the Philippines. He had no previous criminal record. Prior to the robberies, he was completely unknown to the police.
According to his co-conspirators, Buhay was the ringleader of the gang. He was also in charge of the money taken from the robberies. He only gave the others small amounts of spending money. After their arrests, Buhay's co-conspirators were convicted of bank robbery and sent to prison. Meanwhile, the search for their ringleader continued. For eight months, they had no leads. Finally, in March of 1997, a local TV show called "Fugitive Watch" featured Buhay's mugshot.
The show got an unexpected and chilling response from a source 2000 miles away. Someone claiming to be Buhay emailed police a vicious threat. In the message, he taunted the police and threatened to kill them. He also talked about how he enjoyed seeing police officers dead. The email was traced to a terminal in the library of the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. However, a sophisticated computer hacker could have routed it through the university's mainframe from almost anywhere. Curiously, Buhay's last name was misspelled. This could either be a typo or evidence of a hoaxer.
Buhay is still at large and is considered armed and dangerous.
Extra Notes: This case first aired on the May 22, 1998 episode.
Results: Captured. Four months after his story aired, Buhay contacted his mother who convinced him to turn himself in. He then surrendered to authorities in the Philippines, where he had been living. In November of 1999, he was convicted and sentenced to ten years in prison for his part in the robbery. He was also ordered to pay $250,000 in restitution.
In 2007, Buhay was released from prison. On January 15, 2011, he and twenty-six year old Anthony Lee Pabros robbed a bank in Union City, California. The two fled the scene until they were stopped by a patrol vehicle. Buhay exchanged gunfire with an officer in the patrol vehicle, although neither the officer nor Buhay were struck. Buhay then escaped by running into a neighboring backyard. He was later found there dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. He was thirty-six.
- Francis Buhay on Unsolved Archive
- Robber uses Internet to taunt police
- Bank Robbery Fugitive Sends Taunting E-Mail To Police
- Sunnyvale man dies in Union City bank robbery chase
- Francis Buhay Identified as Bank Robber Found Dead in Union City
- Holdup suspect challenged cops in '95 bank heists