News and Press Releases


July 8, 2005

IVY BIRD GAINES, 41, of Auburn, Washington was sentenced to 184 years in prison by U.S. District Judge Thomas S. Zilly in Seattle today for eighteen felony counts related to a string of armed robberies attributed to the "Pillowcase Robber." GAINES robbed ten banks, credit unions, and check cashing businesses from Seattle to Lacey between June 7, 2002 and October 17, 2003. GAINES was arrested within hours of the last bank robbery in Auburn, Washington. Police found a gun, a pillowcase containing $15,000 and a demand note in GAINES' vehicle. A teller at the bank had noted the license plate of the getaway car leading to surveillance of GAINES and ultimately his arrest.

In sentencing GAINES today, Judge Zilly noted that the evidence in the case was overwhelming. "There is no doubt in my mind that you are the person who robbed those banks and took those guns into those banks and robbed those tellers," Judge Zilly told GAINES. "Your professions of innocence are not well received by this court."

Evidence presented at trial revealed that GAINES had made major expenditures or paid off debts following a number of the robberies. Items of clothing associated with many of the robberies and one other demand note were found at GAINES' home. The search also revealed a pillowcase, pants, hat and money that had been stained red from an exploding dye pack placed with the money at one of the bank robberies. The tellers at each bank or business identified GAINES as the man who robbed them. In one robbery, just days after Christmas, the tellers' two young daughters were at the bank to take ornaments off the Christmas tree when GAINES burst in and held the women and children at gunpoint.

Testifying in his own defense, GAINES stated that he had lent his car to a man named "Fat Joe" and that Joe and an accomplice must have robbed the banks. No evidence of the existence of "Fat Joe" was ever uncovered. After a six day trial, the jury deliberated just over an hour before finding GAINES guilty on all charges.

GAINES' lengthy sentence is the result of seven mandatory minimum 25 year prison sentences that must run consecutively for the use of a firearm in the robberies. GAINES' defense attorney asked Judge Zilly to find the lengthy sentence "cruel and unusual." Judge Zilly rejected that argument saying that taking each robbery individually, the 25 year penalty was not "grossly disproportionate." Judge Zilly stated that even without the mandatory minimum sentences, "I would impose a sentence that would keep you in jail for the rest of your life."

The case was investigated by the FBI's Violent Crimes Task Force, with a lead detective from the Seattle Police Department. The Auburn Police Department and Kent Police Department assisted in the arrest.

Assistant United States Attorneys Andrew Friedman and Tessa Gorman prosecuted the case. For additional information please contact Emily Langlie, Public Affairs Officer for the United States Attorney's Office, Western District of Washington, at (206) 553-4110.

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