‘Straw-hat bandit’ indicted for robbing four SF banks

A San Francisco man believed to use unusual disguises during his alleged crimes was indicted by a federal grand jury Tuesday on charges of robbing four banks in The City in May and October.

Richard Laurence Stewart, 52, was arrested on Oct. 18 after an investigation by San Francisco police and the FBI led to a search of his Sunset District apartment, where authorities allegedly found a straw hat, a cowboy hat, a wig, a fake beard and a demand note similar to those reportedly used in the robberies.

Stewart was previously charged in a criminal complaint filed on Oct. 19 with one count of robbery. The indictment replaces that complaint.

The indictment accuses Stewart of attempting to take money from 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.

An affidavit filed with the earlier complaint by FBI Agent Adrienne Sparrow alleged that witnesses said the perpetrator 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.

Sparrow said in the affidavit that Stewart was eventually identified as a suspect after a bank teller saw the perpetrator leave in a taxi parked across the street after the May 13 robbery of the Bank of America branch at 2310 Fillmore Street. A telephone request for the taxi was later linked to Stewart, according to the affidavit.

Following his arrest, Stewart made an initial appearance before a federal magistrate in San Francisco on Oct. 20. He is being held without bail for the time being.

He is due to be arraigned on the indictment and to have a detention hearing before U.S. Magistrate Laurel Beeler on Nov. 3.

If Stewart is convicted in a not-yet-scheduled trial, each bank robbery count carries a possible maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

 

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