From the United States Attorney's Office
RICHMOND, Va. – Michael Francis Mara, 53, of Baton Rouge, La., a/k/a the "Granddad Bandit," pled guilty to robbing 26 banks in 15 states.
Neil H. MacBride, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; Michael Morehart, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Richmond Division; Alex J. Turner, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Norfolk Division; and David W. Welker, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI New Orleans Division, made the announcement after the plea was received by United States Magistrate Judge M. Hannah Lauck.
Mara pled guilty today to two counts of bank robbery, which carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison for each count. As part of the plea agreement, 18 other federal jurisdictions have relinquished jurisdiction for 24 other robberies committed between 2008 to 2010 in 14 states outside of Virginia.
The defense and government jointly recommended in the plea agreement a prison sentence of 300 months. He will be formally sentenced on May 11, 2011, by United States District Judge James R. Spencer.
"Mr. Mara's incredible crime spree came to an end because of a tip from the public," said U.S. Attorney MacBride. "The FBI put together a concrete case tying a string of robberies throughout the country to one man. Once we got the final piece needed, we were able to catch an elusive criminal and hold him accountable for his crimes."
"The FBI's partnership with the Outdoor Advertising Association of America (OAAA) was vital in identifying the "Granddad Bandit" and ending his criminal career," said Michael Morehart, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Richmond Division. "The use of OAAA's cross-country digital billboards led to a tip from a concerned citizen and through persistence and solid investigative work by all involved, Mara was identified and arrested. The FBI's Richmond Field Office was assisted by the Henrico County Police Department, Henrico, VA; the Roanoke Police Department, Roanoke, VA; the City of Richmond Police Department, Richmond, VA; the Baton Rouge Police Department, Baton Rouge, LA; and agents from the Baton Rouge Resident Agency out of the FBI's New Orleans Field Office. Innovative criminals such as Mara provide a challenge to law enforcement, but with coordinated efforts of local, state and federal agencies and with the assistance of our community partners – such as OAAA, criminals will ultimately run out of luck."
According to a statement of facts filed with his plea agreement, Mara admitted that he robbed at least 26 banks throughout the country, including two in Virginia, in a similar manner and many of the robberies were caught on surveillance video.
He admitted to entering each bank and providing a bank teller with a note announcing a bank robbery and demanding various sums of money. Once the demands were met, Mara would retrieve the demand note and exit the bank quietly. Mara admitted in court that he stole $83,868 in cash through his robberies.
After a bank robbery on June 22, 2010, in Glen Allen, Va., the FBI coordinated an extensive fugitive publicity campaign through the use of digital billboards to solicit help from the public in identifying and locating the man they dubbed the "Granddad Bandit."
On Aug. 2, 2010, the Norfolk FBI Field Office received information from a tipster who identified Mara as the robber and provided, among other things, photographs. These were compared with surveillance footage and investigators found consistent key identifiers between the surveillance images and the photographs of Mara, including a hat, eyeglasses, and wrist watch that appear to be identical.