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Archive for Wednesday, November 27, 2002

Bank robberies bring 10-year sentence

Kansan admits to 25 heists in six states; money likely all spent

November 27, 2002

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— An ex-insurance agent who prosecutors say drove a Lexus from Kansas to Arkansas to rob a bank drew a 10-year prison sentence related to robberies in six states.

Richard Banister, 47, of Wichita, Kan., was sentenced in federal court Monday, and additionally will have to pay a $5,000 fine and $340,799 in restitution for a string of crimes that included the attempted robbery in Van Buren. He is accused of committing crimes in five other states.

Appearing before U.S. District Judge Robert Dawson, Banister admitted to 25 bank robberies. As part of his agreement with prosecutors, Banister pleaded guilty to six crimes, including the attempted bank robbery in Arkansas and bank robberies in Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska and South Dakota.

Banister was captured and charged in Arkansas in August 2001 after he brandished a BB gun in an attempt to rob a Firstar Bank branch in Van Buren. Off-duty Arkansas Highway Police officer Pete Lopez wrestled Banister to the bank floor.

Assistant U.S. Atty. Bill Cromwell said Banister has a case pending in Iowa.

Banister told Dawson he never used a real weapon in his crimes.

"I truly regret these actions," Banister said. He also apologized to friends, family and past employers. Dawson, before handing down his sentence, said the use of any weapon traumatizes the victims in such crimes.

"I think it will be the cause of nightmares past and present and nightmares yet to come for ... bank employees," Dawson said. Banister also requested that he be allowed to spend time with his family until he is transferred to federal prison.

"I'm not a flight risk," Banister said to Dawson as he read from a prepared statement.

Dawson, who said he had received several letters from Banister's family and friends who spoke well of Banister, denied the request.

Cromwell said investigators suspect that Banister spent most of the money from the robberies.

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