May 15, 2006 12:00 PM

The robber who knocked over the Compass Bank branch in Phoenix March 7 wore full ’40s noir—black trench coat, fedora, a scarf masking his face. Surveillance cameras captured the sinister figure looming over bank employee Candace Tooze as she took $253,110 from the vault and ATM and packed it in a satchel. Tooze told police the thug had overpowered her—she could feel his “muscular man’s bicep.”

Still, something about her story didn’t figure. For one thing, Tooze failed a polygraph. And her coworker Suzanne Grim not only passed but gave cops an entirely different picture of the perp: less Bogie than Capote, with “a voice sounding female,” according to FBI Special Agent Deborah McCarley, adding that security tape shows the robber carried the loot-stuffed bag with handles looped over one arm, as “a female would carry a purse.”

On April 25 the Feds swooped in to arrest Tooze, 23, and the alleged “holdup man”: her little sister Cecillia Herzberg, 19. Now the pair, who normally share a cozy Chandler, Ariz., condo, occupy separate cells in a federal detention center, charged with felony bank robbery. Both, according to their public defenders, plan to plead not guilty. This is not the first time Tooze has been in trouble. FBI records show she lost a bank job in Oregon for funnelling customers’ funds into her own account.

Several strands of evidence led to their arrest. Most significant was a statement from Marlon Martin, a friend of Herzberg’s, detailing the entire stickup. Outfitting Martin with a wire, FBI agents also heard him argue with Herzberg over whether he should get a cut in return for hiding the cash at his home. “This is the first bank robbery I’ve had with sisters,” says U.S. attorney Kurt Altman, who has prosecuted more than 100 bank heists, “although I did have a couple of grandmas once.”

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