By Joe Mandak
The Associated Press
PITTSBURGH — A bank robber nicknamed the “Bucket List Bandit” after allegedly telling a Utah teller he had just four months to live was sentenced Thursday to 11 years in federal prison for a string of heists spanning 10 states.
Michael Eugene Brewster’s public defender told the federal judge who handed down the sentence that a medical evaluation found his client didn’t have cancer or any other terminal illness.
Brewster’s case made headlines after the Standard-Examiner of Ogden, Utah, gave Brewster the nickname because of the comment he reportedly made to a Wells Fargo Bank teller during a July 6, 2012, robbery in Roy, Utah. The FBI used the nickname to publicize subsequent robberies until they learned Brewster’s real identity.
“The impetus for the crimes was greed, not grief,” U.S. District Judge Sean McLaughlin told Brewster. His lawyer, Thomas Patton, declined to comment.
Brewster’s sentence works out to a year for each of the 11 bank heists he committed across the country last year, though under federal sentencing guidelines, he might have received as little as 6½ years. Those guidelines, which take into account a person’s criminal history and the seriousness of the crime, were increased because of the number of banks Brewster robbed, resulting in the longer sentence.
“Given what he did, and his age and all of the circumstances, he’s going to be away a long time and substantially for most of the rest of his life,” U.S. Attorney David Hickton said. “We’re satisfied that justice was done.”
Brewster, 54, formerly of Pensacola, Fla., was sentenced in Erie, the city 120 miles north of Pittsburgh where his nationwide robbery string ended Sept. 10. It began June 21, 2012, in Arvada, Colo.
Brewster was arrested three days after the Erie robbery when he ran a stop sign in Roland, Okla. Federal prosecutors brought him back to Erie and easily linked him to the other heists because he was seen wearing the same pale blue polo shirt, glasses and brushed back hair in surveillance videos.
According to court documents, Brewster stole a total of $33,858 and sometimes threatened tellers with violence and claimed to have a gun. Nobody was injured in the robberies.
The smallest amount Brewster stole was $632 from Landmark Bank in Columbia, Mo., on Aug 29, and the most he netted was $7,000 taken during the Utah heist that fueled his nickname.
Although the surveillance videos made it clear that one man was responsible for several robberies, the FBI didn’t know who he was until a tipster saw news coverage of the Pennsylvania heist and gave agents Brewster’s name and birth date.
In some cases, Brewster explained his actions by claiming to be terminally ill and, according to the FBI, specifically told the Utah teller, “I have four months to live.”