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The deserts of the American southwest have long been the discussion of lost mines and buried treasures. For hundreds of years, man has scoured the desert floor searching for any signs of the countless tales of lost riches. Some have claimed to have found the elusive treasures but only to be lost again, while others grew old or died trying. None the less, the legends live on as they are passed down from generation to generation. Maybe you will be the lucky one...

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Lost Bank Robbers Loot At Oro Grande
By Margaret Lewis

From page 28 of the August 1998 issue of Lost Treasure magazine.
Copyright ©1998, 1999 Lost Treasure, Inc.

Shortly after noon on a hot summer day in 1933, two armed men casually entered a bank in downtown Needles, Calif., and robbed it of an undisclosed amount of currency and gold and silver coins. Slowly walking toward the tellers, one of the bandits pointed a .38 caliber revolver at them and shouted, "Hands up. Don't move a muscle." The other bandit quickly entered the vault and seized bundles of currency as his partner now emptied all the cash drawers of the tellers.

Returning to the cages, they both piled all of the money into a cloth sack and then marched the bank employees into the vault, shutting and locking the door after them. Their getaway car was parked at the curb with the motor running and they were in it and gone within a few minutes after the robbery was completed. They did not squeal the tires speeding out of town in a cloud of dust. They drove casually west on Main Street and were careful not to attract any unwanted attention to their activities.

As they left Needles, the two bank robbers took a well maintained dirt road that headed southwest into the Sacramento Mountains. They followed this road through the mountains for about 30 miles until they came to the town of Essex, where it intersected with U.S. Highway 66. They gassed up the vehicle and now headed west on U.S. 66, passing through the towns of Amboy, Ludlow and Barstow, where the two bandits once again bought some gas, ate lunch in a restaurant and then turned southwest toward the small town of Victorville.

All was going great for them when their luck took a turn for the worse just a few miles north of Victorville (I-15 today), their getaway car broke down. The bandits pushed the car well off the road onto the shoulder, then headed on foot across an open field to the Mojave River where they hastily buried the loot somewhere along its banks, checking landmarks for later recovery. Walking south along the Mojave River, the bandits eventually arrived at Victorville. In the meantime, the Victorville Police had found the abandoned car and became suspicious. The police had heard about the bank robbery on the radio and initiated a search for the two robbers, who were picked up later a few miles outside of town while attempting to hitch a ride.

While the robbers were being held for investigation, they were positively identified by the bank employees who saw them in a police lineup. After being tried and convicted of bank robbery by a jury of their peers, the two men were sentenced to long terms in prison. Several years later, one of the bank robbers was shot and killed in an attempt to escape from prison and the other one died in prison of an incurable illness.

During their time in prison, the robbers were questioned several times by prison officials as to where the bank loot was hidden and were also offered some time off their sentences if either one of them would tell the authorities exactly where they had cached the stolen money.

The bandits consistently refused to tell where the loot was hidden, except that it was buried along the banks of the Mojave River, just a few miles north of Victorville, near the present-day town of Oro Grande. There is a large cement mill there today.

During the summer of 1996, a friend and I spent a few days in the area looking for the bank robbers buried loot. We stayed at the Green Tree Inn in Victorville. We drove north to Oro Grande on a black-topped road going west out of Victorville. We parked along the road and walked across the fields to the Mojave River.

Taking along our metal detectors, we walked along the banks of the Mojave River for several miles, bugging all likely spots where we thought the loot might have been hidden. We didn't find the bank robbers lost loot, but we did find some old tin cans, a horseshoe and some rusty farming implements. Two days later, we packed up and drove back to our homes in Albuquerque, N.M. We do plan to go back there again someday and resume our search.

--Margaret Lewis

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