Motorcycle Bandit 2: ‘Violent, determined criminal’

Police speak of their lengthy look for two-wheeled bank thief that robbed more than 15 banks and killed a security guard.

'Motorcycle bandit' brought before Ramle court 370 (photo credit: BEN HARTMAN)
'Motorcycle bandit' brought before Ramle court 370
(photo credit: BEN HARTMAN)
For well over a year, dozens of detectives from the YAMAR investigative unit spent day and night tracking one of the Central District’s top public enemies, building a geographic and psychological profile and deploying officers on stakeouts across the district, all with one goal – to put the “Motorcycle Bandit 2” behind bars.
On Sunday, a day before the indictment of 30-year-old Rishon Lezion native Gabi Korsanosky, police spoke about the gargantuan effort put into finding a man they believe robbed more than 15 banks and murdered security guard Yaniv Engler during a robbery last August.
According to YAMAR Central District commander Yigal Ben- Shalom, after the first few robberies a little over a-year-and-a-half ago, police realized that in all likelihood they were dealing with a serial bank robber, and began working to build a profile for the suspect.
Ben-Shalom said police worked on the case without any previous intelligence or informants leading them to Korsanosky. Instead, they built a geographical profile for the robber and deployed police and Border Police undercover units in the field hour after hour, day after day, waiting to catch him where they assumed he would strike next.
Eventually, on December 5, the work paid off when undercover officers from the Border Police 101 unit on stakeout outside a bank caught Korsanosky red-handed walking out of a branch in Ness Ziona moments after he robbed it.
“We knew he would make a mistake and the challenge for us was to be at the right place at the right time,” Central District commander Maj.-Gen. Benzi Sau said Wednesday.
Ben-Shalom said police knew that the robber would return to the scene of his previous robberies, and worked to deploy police around the banks.
“We knew he would return to some of the same banks,” he said. “You return to the places where you succeed. It is a basic thing they teach in criminology – you know that a criminal will return to a place where they were successful.”
Altogether, there were three different banks that police say Korsanosky robbed twice, including the Be’er Ya’acov bank, where in one of the robberies he made off with about NIS 300,000.
For police however, Korsanosky is first and foremost a murderer, not a bank robber.
From the beginning police have worked to connect him to the August 2011 robbery of a Be’er Ya’acov bank, in which security guard Yair Engler was murdered. For Ben-Shalom, that killing shows the seriousness of the man police were dealing with.
“This was a murderer who would not hesitate to kill in order to accomplish his goal,” said Ben-Shalom. “A normal criminal, once things stop going according to plan they will give up and flee the scene. This man, he simply overpowered the guard, shot him to death and then continued inside to rob the bank and then fled. We knew this is someone who would kill a civilian or a police officer if they got in his way.”
As Ben-Shalom and Sau talked about the case, it became evident that in the hunt for Korsanosky money was no factor, as police poured thousands of man hours into a case, particularly notable for an active district that includes such crime heavy areas as Netanya, the Arab-Israeli towns of the triangle, Ramle and Lod.
“We made a strategic decision that no matter what other cases are going on in the district, we would not leave this case or put it aside because this man was a threat to the entire public,” Ben-Shalom said.
He wouldn’t estimate how much the investigation cost, though Sau did surmise that it was in the millions of shekels, no small sum in light of police budget constraints.
One detective defended the investigation’s high cost, saying “I can assure you every time a fighter jet goes for a test run over central Israel they spend more than we did, and what does it matter when it is the lives of your family or mine that are in danger?” The case against Korsanosky has not been without its complications.
The courts have extended Korsanosky’s remand seven times, well over the norm, as police worked for more than 50 days to secure an indictment.
When Korsanosky was first arrested, and before he consulted with his lawyers, police took him to the scene of a robbery in Bat Yam, which he confessed to, and since them police have had more than enough to connect him to that robbery and the one where he was caught red-handed.
Nonetheless, over the past two months, Korsanosky has not cooperated with investigators or spoken one word, police said, as investigators worked to connect him to the murder of Engler.
The long delay has raised questions about the strength of the evidence against Korsanosky, or if, police even have the right man, despite the fanfare surrounding the arrest. It is also unclear why there was no intelligence pointing to Korsanosky, a former Border Police officer, as he was a relatively well-known gambler in Rishon Lezion, who apparently had worked up a very large debt and was robbing banks partly to pay off local bookies.
While police were reluctant to divulge much of the case against Korsanosky, certain aspects of the investigation have appeared recently in the press. These include the testimony of an ex-girlfriend whose house is near the bank branch where Engler worked; who said Korsanosky came to visit her shortly after the robbery and murder, and appeared to be severely stressed. Korsanosky also reportedly wore the same shirt during a few of the robberies, and the SIM card of his phone was removed before several of the robberies, possibly so he could not be traced by his cellphone.
During several of the robberies Korsanosky allegedly entered the bank branch and fired a single shot into the air, before then robbing it and fleeing on a motorcycle.
Police would not say if rounds taken from the bank ceilings matched the bullet that killed Engler or, if the one taken from Engler matched the gun found on Korsanosky when he was arrested on December 5.
Another one of Korsanosky’s methods, according to police, was to steal the bank security guard’s gun, a method he used seven times. Police have only recovered one of those guns, and they have no idea what Korsanosky did with the other six, Ben-Shalom said Sunday.
One of Korsanosky’s lawyers, Shahar Hatzrani, sounded optimistic on Sunday night.
Hatzrani said that over the past nearly two months “not a single piece of evidence has been presented to Gabi or me that directly connects him to any of the robberies. The fact that it took them so long to get an indictment shows they weren’t able to put together the puzzle the way they wanted to.”