lady justice 2 16-9

A bank robber who told prosecutors he had committed more than 100 heists in his lifetime was sentenced Thursday to 3 1/2 years in federal prison for holdups last summer in Beverly Hills and Los Angeles while he was on probation in a previous case.

John Earl Wright, 55, pleaded guilty in Los Angeles last October to two counts of a three-count federal indictment.

But in his plea agreement, he acknowledged all three heists, which occurred at a U.S. Bank branch in Beverly Hills on June 6, a Bank of the West branch in Los Angeles three days later, and a Wells Fargo Bank branch in Beverly Hills on June 18. The robberies netted $5,765, court papers show.

“I don’t know what I’m doing until after I do it,” Wright told the court today.

During the holdups, Wright intimidated tellers by swearing and making it appear as though he was armed, according to a sentencing memorandum.

In the June 9 robbery, Wright grabbed a customer by the arm and pushed him toward a teller. He then motioned as if he had a weapon, telling the employee to hand over cash and warned that if he was followed, “You’ll see what happens. I’ll kill you,” according to the document.

U.S. District Judge Dean D. Pregerson told Wright that such robberies leave bank tellers traumatized for years afterward.

“You terrorized all the people in the banks,” the judge said.”You say things to them. You scare them. They’re frightened.”

Defense attorney Humberto Diaz told the court that Wright is a longtime heroin addict who has spent most of his adult life behind bars.

“The addiction took the best part of him,” the lawyer said, adding that “in all those years, he has never once participated in a drug treatment program.”

In sentencing Wright to prison, Pregerson made the recommendation that the defendant attend a drug program while in custody.

Wright was also ordered to pay restitution of about $3,000 and serve three years of supervised release after he gets out of prison.

According to prosecutors, Wright in a post-arrest confession stated that he had robbed over 100 banks in his life, including two dozen banks in the Los Angeles area.

In 1995, Wright was dubbed the “White Bag Bandit” by authorities who linked him to 18 heists throughout Southern California. The robber, who entered banks, flashed a handgun tucked in his waistband and demanded cash, used a white plastic bag to carry the money away.

At the time of last summer’s robbery spree, Wright was on federal probation after completing his sentence in a prior case that had kept him in custody since September 1995.

City News Service

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