James Allen Hayes, 55, nicknamed by law enforcement authorities as the “Seasoned Bandit” because of his age, has formally pleaded guilty to robbing four banks in 2017, including two in the Santa Clarita Valley.
The Ventura resident and former security guard, lottery winner and heroin addict, also known as James Curtis Hayes, signed an agreement with federal prosecutors on February 23 pleading guilty to the four counts, and admitting to 11 robberies or attempted robberies, according to U.S. Attorney Nicola T. Hanna.
Hayes’ sentencing is scheduled for June 7, said Thom Mrozek, U.S. Department of Justice spokesman. Hayes faces up to 80 years in prison.
Bank surveillance photographs made public during the robbery spree showed Hayes wearing casual clothing, a hat and sunglasses. The moniker “Seasoned Bandit” was assigned based on the bandit’s suspected age and grey-white hair. He was also dubbed the “PT Cruiser bandit” because witnesses saw the suspect driving a gold PT Cruiser.
During the robberies, Hayes passed a note in which he demanded cash and threatened to pull out a gun if the teller did not comply with his demands. However, he never displayed a weapon.
Hayes stole a combined $39,424 from 11 banks during his spree, according to the plea agreement:
* Montecito Bank & Trust, April 27, 2017, Carpinteria
* Union Bank, May 24, 2017, Carpinteria
* Wells Fargo, June 12, 2017, Newhall
* Chase Bank, June 27, 2017, Newhall
* Golden 1, July 7, 2017, Goleta
* Logix FCU, July 25, 2017, Valencia
* California Credit Union, August 8, 2017, Valencia
* Wescom Credit Union, August 21, 2017, Stevenson Ranch
* Coast Hills Credit Union, September 6, 2017, Santa Maria
* Wells Fargo, September 25, 2017, Newhall
* A bank in Pacific Palisades
The investigation was conducted by law enforcement partners with the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office; the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department; the Santa Maria Police Department; and the FBI.
Hayes was arrested in Ventura on a tip from a citizen on October 2, and charged in federal court with 11 counts of robbery involving 10 banks between April 27 and September 26, 2017. He pleaded not guilty when arraigned on October 23.
In his plea deal, Hayes admitted to robbing the Union Bank in Carpinteria, the Wells Fargo in Newhall, the Logix branch in Valencia, and the Coast Hills Credit Union in Santa Maria.
For each of the four counts, Hayes faces 20 years’ imprisonment; a three-year period of supervised release; a fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or gross loss resulting from the offense, whichever is greatest; and a mandatory special assessment of $100, per the agreement.
Hayes is also required to “pay full restitution” to the four banks, amounting to $39,424. His PT Cruiser and $525 in assets are to be applied to restitution, per the agreement.
Hayes won $18 million in the California Lottery in 1998, which he split with his wife. He eventually developed a $1,000-per-week heroin habit, and after spending his share of the winnings, turned to robbing banks.