"Granddad Bandit" pleads guilty in federal court

By Rachel DePompa - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – A bank robbery spree that began in Richmond and spread through 14 other states comes full-circle, with a plea deal today in a downtown courtroom.

The FBI dubbed Michael Mara "the granddad bandit" to help law enforcement and the public easily identify him...with pictures posted on billboards around the country. He pleaded guilty to robbing the two banks in greater Richmond and admitted to 24 more.

His incredible crime spree began in December of 2008 at the SunTrust in downtown Richmond. It ended 26 robberies and nearly 2 years later in Baton Rouge Louisiana.

"The movies suggest that bank robberies are these big bold things with costumes and timers and zip lines and explosives, but the truth of the matter is that most bank robberies involve people going in and clearing out whatever the bank has in the till at the time," said Neil MacBride, US Attorney Eastern District of Virginia.

53-year-old Michael Mara would hand tellers a note, demand a specific amount of money and then ask for the note back. Prosecutor's still don't know Mara's motive, but he made robbing bank after bank in 14 states a mini-career getting away with more than $83,000.

"He was very careful to pick banks that were far from where he actually resided. He seemed less concerned with concealing his identity, then he did with trying to act casual and blend in," Richmond FBI Special Agent Shawn VanSlyke said.

His guilty pleas were part of a deal with the government. The feds are recommending he serve 25 years, which means he would be 78-years-old when he gets out prison. A judge will formally sentence Michael Mara in May. As of now, the FBI says it is not investigating Mara for any other crimes besides bank robbery.

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