Sunset District Resident Pleads Guilty to Four Bank Robberies

A San Francisco man who was dubbed the “Straw Hat Bandit” by the FBI has pleaded guilty in federal court to robbing or attempting to rob four banks in the city last year.

Richard Stewart, 52, entered the plea before U.S. District Judge William Alsup on Tuesday and will be sentenced by Alsup on June 14. Each count carries a possible maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

Stewart pleaded guilty to four charges of attempting to rob a Chase Bank branch on May 12, robbing a Bank of America branch of $7,100 on May 13, taking $316 from a U.S. Bank branch on Oct. 14, and robbing a California Bank & Trust branch of $6,760 on Oct. 16.

U.S. Attorney’s Office spokesman said that in a written plea agreement, Stewart also acknowledged robbing eight other banks in the city between October 2014 and February 2015.

The FBI said in court filings that the perpetrator of the robberies sometimes carried a demand note saying, “This is a robbery,” and wore various costume items including hats, a wig, a fake beard and a mustache.

Stewart was arrested Oct. 18 after a search of his Sunset District apartment turned up a straw hat, a cowboy hat, a wig, a fake beard and a demand note similar to those used in the robberies, the FBI said.

Julia Cheever, Bay City News

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