lady justice 2 16-9

Updated at 12:57 p.m. on Feb. 23, 2015

A man dubbed the “Hills Bandit” pleaded guilty Monday to federal charges stemming from a series of bank robberies from Laguna Niguel to Santa Barbara.

Stephen Richard Bartlett, 53, entered his plea to five bank robbery counts, each carrying a possible sentence of up to 20 years in federal prison.

However, prosecutors have agreed to ask for no more than a total of eight years behind bars in exchange for Bartlett’s admission of guilt, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Bartlett will also be ordered to pay restitution of nearly $80,000, court papers show.

U.S. District Judge Dolly M. Gee set sentencing for July 8.

Defense attorney Joan Politeo declined comment outside court.

In most of the robberies, Bartlett walked up to a teller, displayed a handwritten note and demanded currency, specifying that he wanted $100, $50, and $20 bills. He also made threats that he had a gun, but no weapon was seen.

Bartlett was arrested Oct. 2 after a high-speed pursuit that spanned four counties, lasted some 90 minutes and involved multiple police agencies.

He eventually lost control of the pickup truck he was driving on the westbound 210 Freeway just west of the 215 Freeway and crashed alongside the freeway, with the truck rolling onto the driver’s side.

Bartlett crawled out of the passenger-side door and surrendered.

Bartlett, whose driver’s license shows an address in Nevada, caused two crashes during the chase, one of them involving a California Highway Patrol vehicle, according to the CHP.

While being chased in Santa Fe Springs, he threw a gun from the vehicle that was recovered. It turned out to be a replica of a semiautomatic pistol, according to police.

The “Hills Bandit” nickname came after two holdups in Laguna Hills last spring.

—City News Service

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