Serial Bank Robber Pleads Guilty to Multiple Crimes

James Whittlesey Admits To Robbing Banks In Va., Pa., and Del.


July 23, 2012

HARRISONBURG, VIRGINIA -- A violent repeat offender, who robbed five banks in three states during a three-month crime spree, fled the country and later tried to escape police custody, pleaded guilty this morning in the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia in Harrisonburg.

James Louis Whittlesey, 52, entered guilty pleas today to numerous aggravated bank robbery charges stemming from incidents that took place in multiple districts.

This morning in United States District Court, Whittlesey pleaded guilty to one count of aggravated bank robbery and two gun charges out of the Western District of Virginia. The defendant also entered guilty pleas to two counts of aggravated bank robbery stemming from a pair of bank robberies in the Middle District of Pennsylvania, one count of aggravated bank robbery for a separate incident in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, another count of aggravated bank robbery for an incident in the District of Delaware and one count of attempted escape for acts undertaken in the District of Vermont.  As a result of his pleas of guilty, Whittlesey faces a mandatory life sentence under the federal “three strikes”provision and has agreed to a lifetime sentence in federal prison.

“Mr. Whittlesey is a dangerous career criminal whose multi-state crime spree included five armed bank robberies and an escape attempt,” United States Attorney for the Western District of Virginia Timothy J. Heaphy said today. “His guilty plea today includes aggravated bank robbery and gun charges associated, in part, with his brazen act of firing at police lieutenant in Winchester, Virginia. The investigation and prosecution of this case is a product of cooperative law enforcement by agencies across the country and in Canada. The hard work of this large team of investigators ensures that Mr. Whittlesey will spend the rest of his life in federal prison.”

“In October of 2011 the tight-knit, quiet community of Winchester, Virginia was jolted by a violent display of criminal activity which included an armed bank robbery, witnessing shots fired at responding law enforcement and the defendant’s escape,” said John S. Adams,  Acting Special Agent in Charge for the FBI. “The FBI is pleased to have been able to coordinate investigative efforts with over 15 law enforcement entities within the United States and Canada, resulting in the successful apprehension of Mr. Whittlesey.  This plea will hold Mr. Whittlesey accountable for his actions and bring peace to a victim community that had needlessly been affected by his criminal behavior.”

According to a factual statement and evidence presented at today’s guilty plea hearing by Assistant United States Attorney Nancy Healey, Whittlesey robbed a total of five banks between July 19, 2011 and October 14, 2011.

The defendant’s robbery spree began on July 19, 2011when Whittlesey walked into the M&T Bank in Fawn Grove, Pa. and pointed a revolver at two tellers before demanding money and yelling at the tellers that this was not a joke. Less than ten days later on July 27, 2011, Whittlesey entered the Citizen’s Bank in Willow Street, Pa., and announced a robbery by again pointing a revolver at the tellers. He demanded large bills and threatened to kill them if he discovered any “funny money” in the bag.

Whittlesey struck again on August 12, 2011, at the M&T Bank in Wilmington, Del. The defendant brandished a revolver, threw a gym bag on the counter and said “no change, big bills, no BS.” Two months later, on October 7, 2011, Mr. Whittlesey walked into the M&T Bank in Lemoyne, Pa., displayed a revolver and demanded large bills and no “funny money.”

Finally, on October 14, 2011 in Winchester Va., Whittlesey again pointed his .38 caliber revolver at the tellers at a United Bank and demanded money. After receiving money and leaving the bank, Whittlesey was encountered by police.  He responded by firing several shots at a uniformed officer before fleeing in a car. Soon thereafter, the defendant crashed the vehicle and escaped apprehension through a drainage pipe nearby. He hitchhiked to Interstate 81 and eventually made his way to Maryland.  He then stole a car and drove to Canada, where he abandoned the car three-fourths of a mile from the Canadian border in Vermont.

On December 11, 2011, Whittlesey was arrested in Montreal, Canada. After he was deported from Canada, he was transported to the United States and delivered to the custody of federal agents.  While being transported to federal court in Vermont to have his initial appearance on the Virginia federal charges, the defendant attempted to escape by removing his leg shackles, hand cuffs and waist belt and jumping from the window of an SUV. Whittlesey  was quickly apprehended by officials and transferred to the Western District of Virginia to face his federal charges after a court appearance in Vermont.

The investigation of these cases was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Winchester Police Department, the Virginia State Police, the Frederick County Virginia Sheriff’s Office, the Winchester Virginia City Sheriff’s Office, the Warren County Virginia Sheriff’s office, the Maryland State Police Fugitive Apprehension Team, the Baltimore County Maryland Police Department, the Delaware State Police, the Pennsylvania State Police, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, the Montreal Canada Police Department, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Canadian Border Services Agency, Interpol, multiple other local law enforcement agencies in Pennsylvania and Delaware, and the Virginia Forensics Science Lab.  Assistant United States Attorney Nancy Healey is prosecuting the case for the United States with assistance from the United States Attorney’s Offices in the District of Delaware, the Middle District of Pennsylvania, the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, and the District of Vermont.



Return to Top