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Bank robbed of $3 million by gunmen

TUCSON, Ariz. -- Four gunmen took a branch manager hostage and robbed a bank vault of up to $3 million Wednesday before escaping in a fake telephone company van later found abandoned.

Officials of First National Bank said the exact amount taken would not be known pending an audit, but authorities said it be as much as $3 million, possibly the largest heist in the state's history.

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E. Broadway.

One Tucson television station reported the amount taken was $2.5 million.

However, Sgt. Robert Sinclair, community relations chief for the Tucson police, said neither figure was valid as far as police were concerned.

'I can tell you it's going to be a large amount of money, but that's all I can tell you,' he said. 'We still don't have a total. They're auditing right now.'

According to police, four men staked out the parking lot of the branch in a van painted similar to a Mountain Bell vehicle. The four reportedly grabbed the bank janitor when he showed up for work about 7 a.m. and held him at gunpoint in the van.

A short time later, the branch manager, who was not identified, showed up and was also taken hostage at gunpoint. The four marched the bank employees into the branch and ordered the manager to open the vault, police said.

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The robbers then cleared out the vault, which contained the previous day's receipts for all of First National's Tucson branches.

'There wasn't anything below 20s in there,' said one police officer.

The four then fled in the van which was abandoned and found by police about an hour later in a shopping center parking lot three miles west of the bank.

The suspects were reportedly armed with two revolvers, two automatic pistols and a shotgun.

Investigators said there was no immediate indication the robbery was an inside job, but said the possibility was not being ruled out.

The bank immediately offered a $5,000 reward for information leading to arrest of the four. The Pima County Attorney's office also offered a $1,000 reward.

First National officials said the funds stolen were insured and said depositors would suffer no loss.

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