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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Northern District of California

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

San Francisco Resident Pleads Guilty To “Straw Hat Bandit” Bank Robberies

SAN FRANCISCO - Richard Laurence Stewart pleaded guilty today to robbing four San Francisco banks announced Acting United States Attorney Brian J. Stretch and Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent in Charge David J. Johnson.  As part of the plea agreement, Stewart acknowledged his role in committing a string of additional bank robberies throughout San Francisco.

Stewart, 52, of San Francisco, was indicted on October 27, 2015, and charged with four counts of bank robbery or attempted bank robbery, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2113(a). 

According to today’s plea agreement, Stewart admitted robbing San Francisco banks on May 12, 2015; May 13, 2015; October 14, 2015; and October 16, 2015.  The agreement also describes Stewart’s robberies of an additional eight banks in San Francisco from October 27, 2014, through February 27, 2015.   

According to papers filed by the government, the FBI was investigating the bank robberies of the so-called Straw Hat Bandit since October of 2014.  The government documents describe the FBI’s investigation of the person who wore a number of different disguises during bank robberies.  The disguises included glasses, hats, a black curly wig, a fake beard and mustache, and a single surgical glove.  According to these documents, Stewart eventually was identified as the bandit after a witness saw him leaving the scene of one of the robberies in a taxicab.  Stewart was arrested on October 18, 2015, after authorities linked him to the taxicab request. 

Stewart faces a maximum sentence of 20 years’ imprisonment and $250,000 on each of the bank robbery counts.  Further, additional terms of supervised release, penalties, and restitution may be ordered upon conviction.  However, any sentence following this conviction will be imposed by the court only after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3553.  Sentencing is scheduled to take place before the Honorable William Alsup on June 14, 2016. 

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Shailika Kotiya with the assistance of Patricia Mahoney.  The prosecution is the result of an investigation by the FBI and the San Francisco Police Department.

Updated March 2, 2016