'Bucket List Bandit' arrested after 10 bank heists across country

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FBI agents on Friday said they do not believe an interstate bank robbery suspect nicknamed the Bucket List Bandit, who told tellers at an Erie bank he suffered terminal cancer, has other ties to Western Pennsylvania.

Rather, authorities said they think Michael Eugene Brewster, 54, was a serial bank robber who made his way throughout the country, carrying out at least 10 banks heists, claiming he had just four months to live.

His run came to an end late Thursday when he was arrested during a traffic stop in Roland, Okla. A tipster called FBI agents in Erie on Wednesday and identified Mr. Brewster as the man behind a Monday stick-up at the Huntington National Bank in that city. The unidentified informant provided agents with Mr. Brewster's name and birth date after recognizing him in photos released after the robberies began on June 21 in Arvada, Colo., Special Agent Kirk Brace of the FBI's Erie office wrote in a federal complaint.

In the Erie holdup, Mr. Brewster passed a teller a note demanding $5,000 in a bag. After the teller complied, Mr. Brewster told her "wording to the effect that he had cancer and did not care what happens," Agent Brace wrote.

Mr. Brewster made similar claims to a Wells Fargo bank teller on July 6 in Roy, Utah, where he earned his nickname by claiming he had just four months to live, the FBI said. He gave the teller a note that "indicated he had nothing to lose," said Anna Bond, a spokeswoman for the Roy Police Department.

The FBI says Mr. Brewster committed similar crimes in Flagstaff, Ariz.; Pocatello, Idaho; Winston-Salem, N.C.; Chattanooga, Tenn.; Bloomington, Ill.; and Columbia and O'Fallon, Mo.

In each case, surveillance cameras captured images of the robber, a thin, gray-haired man with a mustache and glasses.

A comparison of the photos to Mr. Brewster's picture "reveals the obvious likeness," Agent Brace wrote in the complaint.

Mr. Brewster was arrested during a routine traffic stop Thursday night in Roland, Okla. The complaint doesn't say where Mr. Brewster is from, but he was arrested while driving a black Chevy Captiva that was reported stolen from a woman in Pensacola, Fla. Witnesses spotted a similar vehicle at several of the robberies, the FBI said.

Agents haven't said how much money Mr. Brewster made off with, except for the $4,080 he took from the Erie bank.

Kelly Kochamba, a spokeswoman for the FBI in Pittsburgh, said questions remain, including whether Mr. Brewster is actually terminally ill.


Sadie Gurman: sgurman@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1878.


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