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'Granddad Bandit’ pleads guilty in bank heists

Associated Press / February 11, 2011

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RICHMOND — The graying, balding man dubbed the “Granddad Bandit’’ pleaded guilty in federal court yesterday to robbing two Virginia banks and acknowledged two dozen other heists from New York to Texas.

Michael Francis Mara, 53, quietly answered “Yes, ma’am’’ or “No ma’am’’ but made no statement during a plea hearing before US Magistrate Judge Hannah Lauck in Richmond. Mara will not be charged in other states.

Authorities say Mara took more than $83,000 in the heists, starting in Richmond in 2008 and ending with a North Carolina holdup the day before his Aug. 11 arrest. He was captured after a six-hour standoff with police at his Baton Rouge, La., home.

Mara faced up to 20 years for each charge, but his plea deal calls for him to spend 25 years in prison. He will be sentenced May 11. US Attorney Neil MacBride said that while Mara has not given investigators any motive for the robberies, he was not “hard off’’ and was employed with a vehicle transportation company.

Mara’s federal public defender, Elizabeth Wilson, declined comment.

Mara never used a disguise. He waited patiently in line and handed the teller a note demanding a specific amount of money.

Prosecutors said Mara did not target banks in his home state and waited about a year to strike again in each state.

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