A serial bank robber who won a $19 million SuperLotto jackpot in 1998 was sentenced Thursday to nearly three years behind bars for heists that netted about $40,000.
James Allen Hayes was indicted in October 2017 in federal court in connection with a string of 11 bank heists in Pacific Palisades, Stevenson Ranch, Valencia, Newhall and elsewhere. He subsequently pleaded guilty to four robberies, in which he used notes demanding cash and threatening to shoot if the employee did not comply. There was no evidence Hayes was actually carrying a gun during the robberies.
Along with the 33-month federal prison sentence, U.S. District Judge Fernando M. Olguin ordered Hayes to serve two years under supervised release after he is set free and pay total restitution of about $40,000 to the banks he robbed.
Hayes, who acknowledged having a heroin addiction during the robbery spree, said he once imagined the heists were “victimless” crimes.
“I (now) know there (are) a lot of victims — those bank tellers have families,” he told the court. “I’ve affected not only the bank tellers — but their families and co-workers.”
Prosecutors had asked Olguin to give Hayes about five years behind bars, while the defense argued for a year in custody.
As part of his plea agreement, the 56-year-old Hayes agreed to forfeit a light-colored Chrysler PT Cruiser, which was used in some of the robberies and earned him one of his two monikers — the “PT Cruiser Bandit.” He was also dubbed the “Seasoned Bandit” by the FBI due to the robber’s gray/white hair.
Hayes was working in Ventura as a security guard supervisor on the graveyard shift in January 1998 when he learned he had won the SuperLotto jackpot — a one-in-18 million chance. According to media reports, his ex-wife got half of the money and Hayes ended up with a $6 million lump sum and a $1,000-a-week heroin habit.
When tracked down and arrested by the FBI, Hayes was living with his wife in a garage.
Defense attorney Stephen Demik wrote in court papers that Hayes was a victim of the “lottery curse” and lost his “bearing in life” before turning to bank robbery to support his drug habit.
Demik told the court Thursday that while his client’s life was “punctuated” by the lottery win, the crimes were “the low point.”
Olguin said the defendant had suffered an unusually difficult childhood, and after he lost his share of the winnings through bad investments, taxes and drugs, the apartment building where he lived and worked as manager burned down, destroying all of Hayes’ possessions.
The judge said Hayes then applied for 38 jobs, but managed to get just one interview, which was unsuccessful. Back surgery led to prescription pain pills, which led to heroin when Hayes lost his health insurance, Olguin said.
The judge said he had decided on a relatively lenient sentence due to Hayes’ health issues and the fact that federal prison is especially hard on defendants over 50. Aging prisoners were “potential subjects of abuse” inside the walls, Olguin added.