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Posted at 2:28 PM ET, 02/10/2011

'Granddad Bandit' pleads guilty

By Dana Hedgpeth

The balding, 53-year-old man called "The Granddad Bandit" after eluding authorities in more than a dozen states pleaded guilty Thursday to robbing two banks.

Federal officials believe the mild-mannered Michael F. Mara stole $83,800 from 26 banks in Virginia, Florida, Texas, New York and other states.

granddad bandit.jpg

His plea was entered in U.S. District Court in Richmond.

Mara, of Baton Rouge, La., began his string of robberies at a Richmond bank in December 2008. One of his last robberies, in August, was in Glen Allen, Va. Mara was able to evade authorities because he didn't follow the typical patterns of a bank robber.

He never robbed "a bank in a state where he resided and he would rarely rob the same bank in a given year," said Shawn VanSlyke, acting criminal assistant special agent in charge of the FBI's Richmond office.

"He would travel as far as Oklahoma or Syracuse from Baton Rouge, just for the sole purpose of robbing a bank," VanSlyke said.

Mara would sometimes rent cars using his own name, give a fake address and pay in cash to drive to other states to rob banks. Other times, he drove an older model Crown Victoria or a Toyota Sequoia.

He would case the bank he planned to rob and look for places to park so bank tellers and customers wouldn't be able to see him coming or leaving, according to Michael Termyn, an FBI case agent.

Wearing a polo shirt and jeans or khaki pants, Mara walked calmly into banks -- never covering his head or face -- and handed tellers notes demanding a specific amount of money. The notes asked that the tellers not set off any alarms or ignite any dye packs. In another strange twist, authorities said, Mara would retrieve his demand notes, making sure not to leave evidence. Once he had the money, he would walk away.

FBI headquarters nicknamed Mara the "Granddad Bandit" as part of a nationwide publicity campaign to find him. Authorities put up surveillance photos of Mara on nearly 2,000 digital billboards in more than 40 states, asking "Have you seen this guy?" A tipster recognized Mara and gave authorities his name.

Authorities tracked Mara to a home in Baton Rouge and arrested him after an hours-long standoff. Two handguns and a rifle were found in a car and a storage unit.

Mara kept a low profile in Baton Rouge, authorities said, and didn't appear to spend the stolen money on anything lavish. He invented a tale for his neighbors and wife, whom he had recently married, when he started his string of bank robberies, to explain his travels. He told them he was employed by a federal emergency response agency and had to go to crisis scenes. When he returned home, he prepared expense vouchers to give his stories more realism, FBI officials said.

Mara, federal authorities said, has a criminal record going back to when he was 18 years old, including convictions for burglary, bank robbery and armed robbery. At the time of his arrest in Louisiana, he was wanted in Florida on forgery charges and in Virginia for a parole violation.

As part of Mara's plea agreement, Mara pleaded guilty to two counts of bank robbery in Virginia and admitted to the 24 other bank robberies in other jurisdictions. He also agreed to a 25-year sentence. He will be sentenced May 11.

VanSlyke said of Mara, "He wasn't your prototypical grandfather."

Neil H. MacBride, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, said in a statement that Mara's "incredible crime spree came to an end because of a tip from the public."

"The Granddad Bandit is now a convicted felon."

By Dana Hedgpeth  | February 10, 2011; 2:28 PM ET
Categories:  From the Courthouse  
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Why isnt he a typical criminal, Because he is a middle aged white guy? When will we stop telling ourselves that white people arent typical criminals? How many people do they have to rob, steel from and kill before we include them in the criminal food chain. Their history shows it.

Posted by: ged0386 | February 10, 2011 4:21 PM | Report abuse

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