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Lottery Winner Who Robbed SoCal Banks Sentenced to Prison

The FBI released these images of a man committing a series of bank robberies in Los Angeles and Santa Barbara counties on Sept. 8, 2017. He was later identified as James Allen Hayes.

The FBI released these images of a man committing a series of bank robberies in Los Angeles and Santa Barbara counties on Sept. 8, 2017. He was later identified as James Allen Hayes.

A man who robbed several banks in Los Angeles and Santa Barbara counties nearly two decades after winning the lottery was sentenced to prison on Thursday, according to authorities.

James Allen Hayes was sentenced to 33 months in prison and was ordered to pay $39,424 in restitution, said Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California.

Hayes pleaded guilty to four counts of bank robbery in February, a court filing from the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

The man won the $19 million Superlotto jackpot when he was 35 years old, according to a 1998 Los Angeles Times article. He had been working as a security guard supervisor and living in Camarillo, the paper said.

“I’m not going to blow the money,” Hayes told the L.A. Times. “I know I’ll change. But only for the better. . . . Mainly what I want to do is help out my family and friends in need.”

Much of the winnings, however, went to taxes and bad investments, his public defender, Hilary Potashner, said in a court document submitted in May. Half of the prize was shared with his ex-wife, his attorney added.

Hayes started to “suffer from the ‘lottery curse,'” according to the court filing.

He became addicted to opiates after undergoing back surgery, Potashner wrote. When the building he managed burned down in January 2017, Hayes lost his job and his home, the court filing said.

“Mr. Hayes lost his health insurance, and began replacing the opiates with heroin,” the attorney continued. “He rented a garage with his wife Stephanie, and he intermittently lived in his car.”

Hayes “ended up poor and destitute,” Potashner wrote, describing him as a “pitiful drug addict.”

Officials said the man spent $1,000 a week on his heroin addiction, Santa Clarita radio station KHTS reported.

From April to September 2017, he robbed or attempted to rob 11 banks—including a Union Bank in Carpinteria, a Wells Fargo in Santa Clarita, a credit union in Valencia and another one in Santa Maria, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Hayes handed a note to the tellers demanding money and threatening that he had a gun.

After taking about $5,000 from a bank in Carpenteria on May 24, 2017, Hayes bought a Chrysler PT Cruiser and used the vehicle in a robbery in Santa Clarita the following month, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

A September 2017 news release from the FBI described the robber as an unidentified man in his 50s or 60s, calling him “the seasoned bandit.”  Following a tip, authorities arrested Hayes in Ventura in October 2017, KHTS reported.

In total, Hayes took about $39,424 in the robberies, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. According to his attorney, Hayes never had a gun despite claiming he did.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office recommended a 57-month prison sentence, while Hayes’ lawyer asked for a sentence of 12 months and one day.

Hayes had no prior criminal history other than two minor offenses in 1994, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.