Jun 10th 2017 by helloiamCLAY • 52 Questions • 6347 Points
I did the retired bank robber AMA two years ago today and ended up answering questions for nearly six months until the thread was finally archived.
At the time, I was in the middle of trying to fund a book I was writing and redditors contributed about 10% of that. I’m not trying to sell the book, and I’m not even going to tell you where it is sold. That’s not why I’m here.
So ask me anything about the bank stuff, prison, the first AMA, foosball, my fifth grade teacher, chess, not being able to get a job, being debt-free, The Dukes of Hazzard, autism, music, my first year in the ninth grade, my second year in the ninth grade, my third year in the ninth grade, or anything else.
Edit: It's been four hours, and I need to get outta here to go to my nephew's baseball game. Keep asking, and I'll answer 100% of these when I get home tonight.
Were you ever paranoid that you'd received bait money or that somebody saw you get into your vehicle, or were you really that calm? I don't have the bone in my body that would allow me to do something like rob a bank, but if I did I would imagine id be super paranoid about trying to deposit the money.
No. I asked for $50s and $100s only. Everything I'd understood about bait money was that they only came in $20s, so nothing to worry about there if you specifically demand the other non-$20 denominations.
And I wasn't worried anyone would see me getting into my vehicle because I parked out of view (i.e., on the other side of another building).
Not a lot. The most I got from a single robbery was maybe $7k.
How much thought and planning did you put into it beforehand? Did you have a clean getaway car, pre selected route, etc? Did you scout banks and pick the best times? Or did you just decide to up and hit one?
I put a lot of thought and planning into the first one. I probably spent five months obsessing over all of the details, possibilities, etc. Once I got the nerve to finally give it a go and everything worked as planned, it was pretty much copy-and-paste from then on.
I didn't scout banks, per se, but I did have an idea of what I was looking for. I didn't want to hit a stand alone bank. I wanted to be able to park my vehicle within walking distance yet out of sight from the bank (i.e., on the other side of an adjacent building).
As for the best times, I usually opted for some time around 3pm since I figured that's when shift-change would likely be for the local police.
Was the car wash joke from the first AmA a reference to breaking bad? Im just curious
And I hadn't seen it yet, so it totally whooshed over my head.
You'd be an interesting contribution to the age old psychological debate of whether or not true altruism exists!!
Funny, I just mentioned in another comment that I don't believe there is such a thing. You'd have to be a robot to ever have pure altruism as a motive to anything.
And I'm totally up for anyone posing a scenario where that point can't be shown.
My uncle committed armed robbery without a mask or gloves, how dumb do you think he is?
Edit: gotta learn how to type
I did the same thing, and I think what I did was pretty dumb. So by the transitive properties of equality, I have to say that I think your uncle is pretty dumb.
(FWIW, I'd also think the same if he had worn a mask and/or gloves, too).
- Walked in.
- Stood in line.
- Waiting for the next available teller.
- Handed them a note asking for their money.
- Turned around and left.
This sounds familiar - was it you on the Criminal podcast? I loved that episode.
Unfortunately yes, that was me.
Glad you enjoyed it, but that podcast is the reason I'll never do another interview that isn't live. I'd give anything to get my hands on the unedited audio from our interview/conversation and re-release it somehow.
Because it costs more for insurance companies, and the banks in insurance premiums, to have to cover wounded or killed employees who tried to be heroes than it does to just hand over the 5k that the teller has access too and let them walk away before it becomes a hostage situation.
They figure its best to let the situation deescalate and just hand over the money rather than force the robber to display a gun or bomb, which could result in injuries/deaths and possibly turning it into a hostage situation.
No threat required. They follow instructions.
Pretty normal, for the most part. I have two sons that I raise together with their mother (my ex-wife). I spent a lot of time during 2012-2014 in the oil fields working my life away to try and get out of debt, but once that was all said and done, I started spending a lot more time at home with my boys.
I travel a little here and there to do some speaking engagements, and I also love to travel for foosball tournaments. I also play foosball locally twice a week. Other than that, I have a typically quiet life.
If you'd be able to tell your 10 year old self one thing, what line of crime would you recommend him?
My 10 y/o self was trying to cope with his parents divorcing and not understanding how to fit in at school. He wouldn't have listened to a damn thing I said anyway and probably would have done the exact opposite anyway.
More than anything, I think I'd just tell him to hang in there and things won't be bad forever. I'd tell him that his parents still loved him even if they didn't always know how to show it, and I'd challenge him to actually try to appreciate school instead of trying to make it hell on every teacher in his path.
10 y/o kids don't have a fucking clue in life and are in that really awkward phase of too young to care for themselves and too old to have everything done for them.
I'd probably tell him to become a hacker.
I see that bank robbers don't usually just rob one bank and be done with it. Why is that the case? For something that from the outsiders perspective seems such an impossible task to get away with, why would you or any other bank robber do it multiple times after getting away with it once? Seems to me like the equivalent of betting it all on black, winning a huge jackpot and attempting to bet it all again.
Hmm, interesting things to think about.
For the most part, I think bad decisions have a certain inertia (i.e., they just naturally continue until acted on by an outside force).
I can't speak for all criminals, but I had no plans to ever do more than one. But when I did the one, I wanted to do it again. I don't know. I wish I could explain it. I'd volunteer to be a part of any study to figure out why people do dumb shit once and then twice and then again and again until they go to prison or die.
As for bank robbery seeming like an impossible task to get away with, I'd guess that most of your perspective is shaped by things that aren't totally true but are common public perception. For example, people think that (1) this is a big deal to banks and (2) police are good at solving crimes. No disrespect to law enforcement, but it's just really hard to solve so many crimes. And anyone—with a little thought and few morals—can commit this particular crime without getting caught.
I appreciate the gambling analogy you mention at the end of your question. You'd think that would add some weight to the "it doesn't make sense" category. But then we have the reality of Las Vegas to show that people just really love—for better or worse—the rush of a good gamble.
Thank you so much for the reply! You have a very reasonable and humbled answer. I'm actually a psychologist (it almost appears as if you guessed that) and one of my favorite subjects in the field is the criminal mind. The criminal mind really doesn't make much sense from a psychological standpoint of what "healthy" is, but it's also seeming to exist in a way that the average mind does not. They think in ways that aren't average, for better or worse. It's incredibly fascinating, like trying to solve a Rubik's cube or something.
If you care to answer, was there some moment where you realized that banks aren't as impossible to rob as the average person thinks? Or finding out that police aren't particularly good at solving bank robberies? That seems to be a crucial turning point...a sorta "A-haaa!" moment
was there some moment where you realized that banks aren't as impossible to rob as the average person thinks?
My stepmother was a teller most of my childhood, so I'd heard a few times about how robberies went down and what they were supposed to do. It wasn't something that was specifically talked about, per se, but it was one of those things I just picked up somewhere along the way and understood as common knowledge by the time I was an adult.
And yeah, people who study people for a living kind of stick out in a place like reddit. Seems like most of the crowd here is either dick butts or thinking types.
Happy to chat any time. I'm easy to find.
Was your wife or family aware that you were robbing banks? Was this a dirty secret?
I didn't tell my wife or my best friend or anyone. I didn't want to burden either of them with that. But that's not the real reason I didn't tell them. I just know that your chances of getting caught skyrocket when you start blathering on about it to others.
I didn't feel like it was a dirty secret either. It was just one of those things that I did every now and then. I'm a private person, so it didn't bother me keeping it to myself.
How do you think the world of robbing banks has changed since you were doing it? While the cameras are slightly better than they used to be, it seems that very few bank robbers actually get caught barring ridiculous stupidity. Even those whose faces are caught on camera walk out of the bank with typically a couple grand and no consequences thereafter.
Considering it is a federal offense, I am curious as to how seriously you believe law enforcement takes some of these robberies, given how small the quantity of money is and nobody being harmed in the process. It seems as though, given the lack of news coverage on such small time jobs and the lack of anyone ever being caught, that someone could easily rob a bank or two and continue life and working their 9-5 job as though nothing ever happened
This is a fun conversation to have, and I actually will have a really cool opportunity to go to an event later this year and talk with banking professionals about it. I'm excited.
Cameras are a shit ton better today than they were in 2006. Plus, we have social media in a way that only existed in our worst nightmares back then. It's a lot different these days. With that said, it's still just not really that big of a priority for banks to catch robbers. They're not really losing that much money to robberies.
If you do it how I was doing it, you're not going to really raise any eyebrows. On the other hand, if you're going in guns blazing and wrecking shop, they're going to put a lot more of their resources into catching you...
...because if you hurt a customer during a robbery, that's going to cost WAY more money than a few thousand dollars from Teller B.
And I agree with your last sentence.
I wish I had something more legitimate to blame like addiction or desperate financial circumstances or anything else. Unfortunate truth is it just seemed like it would be exciting, and I enjoyed the thought of trying to get away with something like that. I didn't have very many healthy avenues to pursue excitement, adrenaline, etc.
I’ve always wondered what is going through the mind of a robber, especially someone who robs banks. Does a certain amount of adrenaline take over just to follow through with the robbery itself? I’m sure all kinds of what-if scenarios could paralyze someone from attempting it in the first place.
Have you seen the movie Hell or High Water? They were robbing small banks but it felt like they portrayed what that’s like in a realistic manner.
Nothing was really going through my mind at all during the process. Intellectually, I definitely knew what I was doing. But otherwise, I just tried to remain in the mindset that I was there to do a thing and the bank tellers were also there to do a thing. I tried to avoid thinking of myself as a criminal doing bad things. I didn't want the anxiety that came with that.
And sorry, but no I haven't seen that movie. I hardly watch movies at all, much less suspense movies. I like movies like Office Space and Liar, Liar.
I saw the first one when I was a kid and liked it. I need to check out the new one, but I still haven't.
I'm pretty excited about Cars 3 next Friday though.
Do you think you'll ever rob a bank again? If not, why not?
First of all, I am standing up while typing this and there's nothing you can do to stop me.
Nah, I can't imagine ever wanting to do that shit again. I like my life, and I'm happy. That's something I never had for the first few decades of my life. There's just no appeal to do certain things as you get older and for me, this falls into that category.
Was any of them an armed robbery? If so why did you choose to take a gun/weapon, was it for show or did you intent to use it if it was needed?
No weapons. They were "note only" robberies.
How did it feel always living on the edge like that? Always looking over your shoulder and trying not to get arrested?
I never really felt like I was looking over my shoulder. That feeling usually only lasted an hour or two after the robbery, but it was pretty...I dunno...whatever a drug does to you is what it did to me. But as with drugs, it wears of more quickly each time as you build tolerance to it.
I didn't really feel like I was living on the edge. It was exciting, but it never lasted.
Damn right, it is.
And not just because of the crime, but just because of being a felon in general. Although it's technically illegal to discriminate based on that, companies aren't so quick to hire an ex-con.
Thankfully, it's still America and there's always opportunity if you try hard enough. No complaints from me.
Your last AMA was referenced recently and I was really intrigued by it. I looked through your post history and sorted by top to see some of the best answers. And I came across this post that was only about a week old at the time:
A lot of people called you out that it was BS. So was it? Did you bamboozle us? I still like you.
Ah man, I got soooo much shit for that comment.
So the truth is I was at a game where this exact thing happened. The lady looked exactly like that lady—clothes and all—and exactly what I said happened definitely happened.
Problem is, the game I was at was Texas vs Cleveland. That's actually when I realized I fucked up in the thread you linked. I got so defensive because people were calling me a liar, so I actually linked pics from my Facebook page proving that I was actually at that game on that date. Jurickson Profar hit a home run in his first MLB plate appearance that game, and there was an air show featuring the Blue Angels in town, too.
And, of course, someone not-so-politely pointed out that it was an Arizona vs Houston game in the video and not a Texas vs Cleveland game as my pics/vids had shown.
So no, I didn't bamboozle anyone. It was just an honest mistake. But the sadist in me enjoyed watching people get so damn twisted about something so irrelevant, so I never bothered editing and correcting myself.
I'm still an asshole on occasion. My bad. :)
If you drop an object into the goal of a foosball table (let's say a cell phone) and you can't get it out by hand is there any way to remove it without somehow destroying the table?
Depending on which type of table you're talking about, it could be as simple as opening up the table and getting it out with your hand. Most coin-operated tables that you find in bars/pubs/whatever have a split-cabinet design so the owner can open it up and remove the coin box.
If you're talking about a home model that doesn't have a split-cabinet design, it's going to probably be a pain in the ass.
Yes, it's definitely wrong—morally, legally, and in every other kind of way.
People often give a good Hell yeah! to the idea of stealing from banks since the public perception of banks is that they're the real crooks. But I don't subscribe to that. Banks are businesses, and I was a criminal. Plain and simple.
How many years of your sentence did you actually serve? I see in your attached proof the sentence date is 2008 for 20 years, so release 2028, but as far as I am aware it is 2017.
My sentence was 36 months. I served 39 months because I didn't get credit for all of my county time.
I think you misread the proof. The crime carries up to 20 years, but that wasn't my sentence.
A bunch of legal mumbo jumbo that I never fully understood (and didn't really care about because I was expecting so much more time anyway).
Basically, I was arrested and put in Collin County's jail for a while until the feds picked up the charges. The county never indicted me because the feds were supposed to. But the feds were dragging their feet and Collin County let me out on a personal recognizance bond (because they knew I had warrants in another county for the same thing).
So when I was released from Collin County, the second county (Rockwall) came and got me. I was in Rockwall County's jail for three months, 10 days. While I was there, the feds indicted me, and I went to their detention center from Rockwall.
When it was all said and done, Collin County still indicted me and ultimately sentenced me to three years (which ran concurrently with my federal time). Rockwall dropped the indictment when the feds picked it up, so I sat for three months and 10 days on a charge that no longer existed.
So at the end of the day, I served my 36 months. It just so happened I had the period in the middle that didn't count (i.e., the Rockwall County time).
Did you ever leave a calling card, or take any trivial souvenirs?
I stuffed a rag into the drain of their sinks and turned on the faucet so the house would flood.
Other than that, no.
I'm about that Professor Plum life.
Raise my kids, play foosball, and go do speaking engagements every now and then.
Let's cut the shit here and tell us, are there Bank Robber groupies?
Probably. I don't know. I don't think I'd want anything to do with that crowd.
What drove you to start and what drove you to stop and eventually turn yourself in?
Answered the first part here.
I stopped because it stopped being fun. My son was born and something just changed inside my head. I wanted to be someone else. It's hard to explain. I'm sure a psychiatrist or some other kind of doctor could give a really solid explanation as to why, but I just had different desires at that point.
And turning myself in seemed like the only logical option. It would put a definitive end to my past and give me a chance to work shit out before my son was too old to really remember much of it.
First off, thanks for the book, secondly, the heist scene in Heat (i.e. Where they're actually in the bank / controlling the staff and punters) felt pretty authentic, was it?
Also, what other films have shown the craft well?
I've never seen that movie, but generally speaking, Hollywood tends to really get bank robbery wrong. Granted, if they painted a more accurate picture of bank robbery, it would be terribly boring and nothing people would want to pay to see.
Hollywood portrays bank robbery about like the porn industry portrays sex.
What was it specifically about robbing banks that appealed to you? Why not any other type of theft/crime?
I don't fully know how to answer it. To me, it's like asking someone why they prefer mustard over ketchup. I just don't like mustard, I guess, but I can't explain why. I just don't like how it feels in my mouth. To me, there's a certain icky feeling about selling drugs, stealing cars, robbing convenience stores, or any other crime.
Also, I knew how banks worked. I knew their procedures during a robbery, so I was just more comfortable with the thought of doing that instead.
She was terrible.
She's one of the few people I mentioned by name in my book. She was just a terrible, terrible person.