A gunman kidnapped a Mesa Bank employee Tuesday morning at her home and threatened to kill her if she did not go to her place of work and transfer money into designated accounts, police said Wednesday.
Mesa police detective Steve Berry said an investigation led to the arrest of Scottsdale resident Christian Priest, 39, on suspicion of armed robbery, aggravated assault, kidnapping, theft by extortion and misconduct involving a weapon.
According to court records, the victim woke up about 5:30 a.m. Tuesday and walked from her bedroom toward her kitchen. When she entered the family room, an armed man grabbed her arm and pushed her against the wall and held a gun against her neck. The woman told police the man entered her home through a back arcadia door and threatened to kill her if she did not follow his orders.
She said the man initially demanded that she transfer $5 million into a bank account using a number he provided, but she told him she could only authorize a transaction up to $750,000.
She then offered to give the man $20,000 from her personal account. The suspect agreed and made arrangements with the woman to meet her at a specific time and place to exchange the money.
The suspect then watched as the woman got ready for work. He then entered her vehicle and had her drop him off around the corner from her house.
When the woman arrived at work at 63 E. Main St. in downtown Mesa, she reported the incident to her co-workers, who called police.
During interviews with police, the woman told investigators that she had received several strange phone calls on July 2. She had saved one of the messages on her voicemail and told officers that the voice matched the voice of her attacker.
FBI agents used phone records to trace the calls to a Tempe business called Associates Capital Group. The owner of the business recognized the voice and told investigators it belonged to Priest, who lived with his uncle in Scottsdale.
Investigators then obtained a copy of a driver’s license issued to Priest in Oregon that included his photograph. The kidnapping victim then identified Priest in a photo lineup.
Mesa police and FBI agents then went to the home of Priest’s uncle at 7317 E. Cypress St. in Scottsdale, where they found a vehicle reported stolen from Oregon. Officers waited outside the home and arrested Priest when he attempted to enter the stolen vehicle.
A handgun matching the description given by the bank employee was found under the driver’s seat of the vehicle.
Detectives also found a map that showed directions from the Scottsdale home to the bank employee’s home. The victim’s name was also handwritten on the map.
Court records show that Priest has prior convictions for robbery, forgery and eluding police.