What made you get into bank robbery?
Bank robbery is the real American Dream. We make movies about it, and as long as innocent people aren’t hurt or killed, our society loves bank robbers.
Also, it seemed like a worthy challenge. I thought it would be quite an accomplishment if I could solve the puzzle and figure out how to get away with it.
Did you have a mentor of sorts that you learned from or did you have a community of bank robbers that you would talk to?
Only the Internet. I studied countless reports of other robberies that had gone wrong and people who were caught. I never told anyone what I was doing. One of the main things I learned from research was that an overwhelming number of people are caught because they didn’t do it solo. So I never let anyone (not even my wife or best friend) know what I was doing.
How much planning did you do before robbing a bank?
I researched for about five or six months prior to my first one. I studied mostly the things that people did to get caught, and I just tried to plan around those things. It’s hard to know how people get away since those details rarely make it to the news, but studying how people get caught was incredibly helpful in knowing what to avoid.
Once I did my first bank, very little planning was needed for subsequent banks. I never really scoped out a particularly location other than to make sure there was parking that was out of view from the bank.
Were any movies helpful or are they all too unrealistic?
Hollywood knows how to tell a story, but they don’t know how to rob a bank.
Could you walk us through the process?
Basic Outline: – Stand in line like a regular customer – Wait for the next available teller -Hand them an envelope and tell them to give me their $50s and $100s (usually this was written on the envelope rather than me verbally saying it) – Turning around and walking out like a regular customer
No gun. No threats. No Hollywood drama. No mask. No disguise. Nothing.
Just a regular customer. In and out in the same amount of time as if I was making a deposit.
I generally chose a time of day when I thought the cops were on shift change, which was usually around 3pm. Some cities actually publish that for whatever weird reason.
I usually went to Chili’s or somewhere to eat and chill out.
Doesn’t sound like a whole lot. How much would one teller even carry?
In their top drawer, it was usually less than $10k. I probably averaged around $5k per bank. But it was pretty low risk that way, so that was cool with me.
Why did you only want $50 and $100s?
I don’t know about today, but back then all of the marked bills, dye packs, and tracking stuff was in $20s, so I definitely didn’t want those. And $1s, $5s, and $10s were such a small denomination that they wouldn’t add up to much anyway. It wasn’t worth the extra time for them to get everything out of their drawer.
Also, if someone else noticed the teller clearing out their drawer, it might look weird and trigger some sort of response. Getting out a bunch of $50s and $100s, however, seemed to be the quickest way and drew no attention from other tellers.
Was there a threat involved? Or you just said “give me this money” and they did it?
No threat. I just told them what I wanted, and they complied. This is how it works in America because the amount of money a bank gives up ($5-$7k on average) per bank robbery is infinitely less than the amount of business they’d lose if shit got wild in a bank full of customers.
They just want to give you what you want and for you to get the hell out of their bank.
Why did the tellers give you the money if you had nothing to threaten them with?
Standard procedure at most banks.
Where did you look when the actual robbing was going on, did you stare at the teller in the eye, look down, just watch their hands?
Definitely stared at the teller’s eyes. You can see everything a person is thinking in that moment if you pay attention.
How did you get away? They would press some sort of alarm wouldn’t they?
Yes, and they always did. Button calls the alarm company. Alarm company calls 9-1-1. 9-1-1 dispatches an officer. An officer speeds to the bank. I’m out the door before all that happens.
Did you carry a weapon??
No. I strapped a hammer to my leg under my pants just below my knee in case I needed to break out of a locked door or something, but I never used a gun or anything like that.
There were no security guards at the banks?
I didn’t do banks with guards.
Would you have harmed someone if you found yourself in a position between that and getting caught?
That depends on the situation. If it was just some random guy trying to be a hero, I would have probably gone to any extreme necessary to get away because that’s a challenge. On the other hand, if it was a cop or a security guard of some sort, I would have probably let them win.
Did anything ever not go as planned?
Yes. The last one I did.
The teller freaked out as soon as I turned to leave the bank. She started screaming “lock the doors, lock the doors” but I ignored it and just kept walking like nothing was happening. I got out before the doors were locked, but a guy walking into the bank seconds later already found them locked. He was pissed, of course, because it wasn’t closing time, and he thought he had gotten there too late. He obviously didn’t realize the guy who had just walked out of the bank and past him had just robbed the bank.
Did you ever get one of those ink cartridges that blew up on you and the money?
No dye packs. Nothing like that.
How were you not found out with CCTV or anything without wearing a mask?
Imagine you’d never met me or read anyting about me. Now imagine if they sent you the video of the bank jobs I did. Would you be able to find me?
If all you have is a picture or video of someone, that’s not really useful. As long as I didn’t make it to the news, I was good to go. And nothing I did was newsworthy because nobody got hurt and I didn’t make a scene.
When you were robbing a bank was it intense or were you calm the entire time?
I was calm and controlled, but it was incredibly intense at the same time.
It’s like having sex while taking the SATs. You have to focus on both 100% even though that’s not totally possible, and that’s why it’s so rewarding when it works.
What’s the most memorable thing that someone has said to you while you were bank robbing?
One teller skimped out on me and didn’t give me all I had asked for, and I told her, “You can do better than that.” She just shrugged — palms up like a little kid — and said, “That’s all I got.”
Pretty ballsy on her part.
On a scale from 1-10, how fun or sacry was it?
I don’t think I would describe it as fun. It’s kind of like sex. Everyone will use a different adjective to describe it, but none of them are quite accurate. It’s just…aahhhhh. Ya know? It was scary the first time I ever went to do it, and I chickened out. I sat in my truck in the parking lot beforehand but couldn’t calm down, so I went home and came back the next day. Except for that one day when I backed out, I never experienced fear.
How many banks did you end up robbing?
I eventually stopped counting. I originally fessed up to one bank, but they didn’t believe me, so I gave them two more. I did time for those three.
What did you do with the money that you robbed?
I used the majority of it for charitable stuff like helping people in need or donating to worthy causes. I gave quite a bit of money to a local charity that helps out the families of first responders who are killed in the line of duty.
What made you turn yourself in?
I always figured prison was in the cards for me — even before I was doing crime — so it made sense to turn myself in and get it over with, but most of all, I became a father and wanted to just do my time while my son was a baby instead of the cops accidentally figuring out who I was and taking me to jail when my son was older.
How did the police react when you turned yourself in?
The police were very professional. They sent the SWAT team to the hotel where I told them to come get me, so that was pretty shit-your-pants scary, but they didn’t fuck me up or anything. Once I was cuffed and cleared and all that crap, they all talked to me like I was a rock star or something. It was really strange. They asked “why” and all that stuff, but it wasn’t like the cop style of “why.” It was more like a fascinated curiosity.
How much time did you serve?
How did you only get three years?
First time criminal, turned myself in, lots of crap like that. The judge just believed three years was enough. Who am I to disagree?
Are you and your wife still together even after she found out about the robberies?
No. We divorced while I was in prison for personal reasons not related to my crimes.
How did she take the whole robbery thing?
She thought it was crazy, but not totally unexpected either. I was a little wild back then.
And what was prison like?
Prison was like church camp without the girls or weird counselors. I played a lot of chess and read a lot of books. I also wrote a lot, of course. Mail is the highlight of anyone’s day in prison.
There are some pretty bad dudes there, but nobody really wants any trouble unless you just really fuck them over. There’s always trouble if you want it, but it’s pretty laid back most of the time. You learn the way of life pretty quick in there if you’re smart.
Prison is lonely and depressing, but it’s also a great place to really work on yourself if that’s what you want to do. Most men and women waste that opportunity. Thankfully, I didn’t.
Did you ever actually feel guilty about anything you did?
I never felt guilty because I never attacked or assaulted anyone. Under the circumstances, I was as nice as I could possibly be to the bank employees because I did feel a little sympathy for them.
Did you ever feel that the concept of stealing money was wrong?
I think morality is very subjective. I wouldn’t steal from an individual person because I’m not comfortable with that. The banks, however, consider this kind of theft an acceptable loss, so that was okay with me being part of the loss that they consider acceptable.
Part of my process did begin with how poorly I thought rich people handled their money. I’d always thought, “If I was that rich, I could change the world instead of just piling up cash.” I don’t use that to make bank robbery “okay” but that’s what made it okay for me at the time.
Did you keep the money?
I paid it all back.
If you could go back in time would you have still done it?
Yes. I still acknowledge what I’ve done, but the process and experience of going to prison and finding myself (as well as a purpose in life) has really made it all worth it, relatively speaking. It’s hard to regret something that has turned into something so good.
What do you do now for income?
I was working in the oil fields until recently. Now I stay at home with my boys, and I am trying to get a book published and turn that into some sort of career, if at all possible. I’ve been on a few shows, and people seem genuinely interested in hearing more, so that’s what I’ve decided to do.
How difficult was it to get a job after prison?
I got out of prison on a Tuesday and had a job on Thursday. It only paid $13/hr, but it was good work, and I was happy about it. I worked there for about 14 months (while steadily looking for something better) and finally found work in the oil fields making quite a bit more.
What’s the life lesson you can give from this whole experience?
I think generally, it’s important to embrace the shit you’ve done wrong and be accountable for the things you can change in your own life. I’m a big fan of just stepping up and admitting where I was at fault, and I take a lot of pride in accepting responsibility for the things I’ve done.