When FBI agents put their handcuffs on the man suspected in a dozen bank robberies – including a half dozen of them here in the Santa Clarita Valley – they were sealing the last chapter in a real rags-to-riches, riches-to-rags story.
Their man – identified as 55-year-old James Allen Hayes – had won the lottery back in 1998, winning a cash prize of $19 million.
So why did he allegedly target banks Santa Maria to the SCV?
Sources close to the investigation point to a costly heroin addiction.
Regardless of the reason, however, the lottery winner was found living meagerly in Ventura when FBI agents caught up with him.
“When they arrested him Monday night, he was a guy coming out of a garage where he lives in Ventura,” FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller told The Signal Wednesday.
“His wife was with him but she was not arrested,” Eimiller said.
A five-month bank-robbing spree had come to an end when FBI Special Agent Ingerd Sotelo moved in to arrest her suspect Monday.
And the devil was in the details.
The third bank Hayes allegedly hit was also the first one hit in the SCV.
On June 12, the robber wore sunglasses and a white baseball cap. His holdup note read: “Give me $10,000 in large bills. Be quick, I’m watching your every move. I have a gun.”
He demanded $10,000 but settled for $2,000. That was the first time he was seen getting into a PT Cruiser.
A couple of weeks later, the PT Cruiser Bandit hit his second SCV bank – again wearing sunglasses and a baseball cap, and again getting into a PT Cruiser.
His note to the teller of the Chase Bank on Lyons Avenue, according to the affidavit, read: “I have a gun. I want $8,000 in large bills.”
The teller gave him $3,000 and he left.
On July 7, Hayes allegedly robbed the Golden 1 Credit Union in Goleta. The note presented that day simply read: “I have a gun.” But, the robber told the teller he needed $8,000 and that he had a family emergency.
The teller gave him $5,000. And, as before, left in a PT Cruiser.
On July 25, Hayes was in Valencia robbing the Logix Federal Credit Union, according to the affidavit.
His note to the teller read; “I have a gun in my pocket. Don’t make any sudden movements. Give me $7,000 cash.”
Hayes was given $7,200, according to the FBI agent who later arrested him.
On Aug. 10, Hayes was back in Valencia, this time robbing the California Credit Union on Magic Mountain Parkway.
His note read: “Give me $7,000 cash. I have a gun.”
The teller gave him $2,515 and he left – in a PT Cruiser.
Two weeks later, the man now dubbed the “PT Cruiser Bandit” robbed the Wescom Credit Union in Stevenson Ranch, handing over a note that read: “I have a gun.”
The robber told the teller he had a “very bad family emergency” and was given $3,259. He left in a PT Cruiser.
Hayes hit the Coast Hills Credit Union in Santa Maria on Sept. 6, according to the affidavit, this time wearing sunglasses and a dark-colored baseball cap that said: “Cali.”
He made off with $4,450.
Then, capping a 5-month bank-robbing sprees, Hayes returned to the same bank he hit before in Newhall – the Wells Fargo branch on Lyons Avenue at Wiley Canyon Road.
He went to the same teller who recognized him. The teller recognized the man and walked a few steps away to get her manager.
The manager walked over to the man at the teller window and read the note, which read: “I have a gun. Give me $9,000.”
The man told the manager to hurry but then Hayes walked away with his note and left the bank without getting any money.
Then the PT Cruiser figured into his capture.
According to the affidavit, surveillance footage from a nearby business shows a gold PT Cruiser driving by 15 minutes before the robbery.
In the footage, the gold PT Cruiser has the same wheels and spoiler as the footage from the Aug. 10, 2017 and Aug. 20, 2017 robberies.
Hayes then allegedly robbed another bank after that in Pacific Palisades.
His note was a little longer, reading: “I have a gun. Give me $6,000. Don’t pull any alarms or don’t call anyone.”
He was given $3,700 just before he stepped into a PT Cruiser and drove off – again, captured on surveillance video.
The FBI released some of their video images to the public which prompted someone to call saying their recognized him as the man who lived in Ventura, in a garage and who had purchased a PT Cruiser.
As FBI agents moved in to make their arrest they found a man living in a garage who, at one time, was given $19 million in winnings.
on Twitter @jamesarthurholt