The “Big A Bandit,” who got the nickname for wearing an Angels T-shirt and ball cap during his heists, was sentenced Monday to 6 1/2 years in federal prison.
Robert Paul Simmons, 53, pleaded guilty Nov. 23 to four robberies and admitted to two others in Orange County, dating back to May 10, 2013.
Simmons, who investigators say was actually a Dodgers fan, choked up as he apologized to his victims and his family and friends.
“First and foremost I want to apologize to the bank employees,” Simmons said. “I’m terribly sorry. I’m not a bad person. I just made some bad choices … I look forward to putting these bad decisions behind me.”
He thanked his wife and two sons for standing by him and added, “I love them very much and I will do everything in my power so that they see me as the person who loved and cared for them again. I will never do it again. I can assure everyone of that.”
Simmons’ attorney, Kelly Munoz, argued for a 48-month sentence that could be extended with an inpatient drug rehabilitation facility. She argued her client should not have to serve extra time for pretending to have a gun at two of the stickups.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott Tenley, however, said the tellers believed the defendant had a weapon and that he should be punished as if he did flash a real gun.
U.S. District Judge Cormac Carney disagreed, pointing to Simmons’ testimony Monday that he used a garlic press tucked into his jacket in one heist and a black-painted squirt gun with tape on the handle for another stickup to frighten the tellers into forking over cash.
He admitted using the fake weapons, so “my family and friends (would) know I wouldn’t carry a real weapon and possibly harm someone.”
Tenley got Simmons to also admit that he displayed an actual bullet in two other robberies.
Carney said he took into account the fear the victims must have felt during the robberies.
“These good people are going to have to live with that fear for the rest of their lives,” Carney said.
The judge also considered that Simmons, who admitted to robbing the banks to finance his methamphetamine and gambling addictions, had a stroke while in custody and has lost his ability to read and write. He is blind in one eye and has blurred vision in another and suffered from diabetes and high blood pressure.
Simmons’ father left his family when the defendant was a year old and his stepfather was an alcoholic, Munoz said. By age 12, Simmons started drinking and his criminal record includes a couple of drunk driving arrests, the attorney added.
Simmons’ “spiral downward” happened soon after his mother succumbed to Parkinson’s Disease.
“He was grateful for his arrest because it stopped the spiraling down of his life,” Munoz said.
Carney ordered the defendant to pay $9,230 in restitution to the banks.
According to the plea agreement, the Big A bandit robbed the following banks:
–Bank of the West, 3021 Yorba Linda Blvd., Fullerton, on May 10, 2013, Oct. 4, 2013, and Dec. 6, 2013, and July 2, 2015;
–Bank of the West, 1330 Beach Blvd., La Habra, on June 25, 2015;
–Comerica Bank, 2432 E. Katella Ave., Anaheim, on June 2, 2015.
— Wire reports