He won $19 million in the lottery — and became a bank robber
The first time Jim Hayes robbed a bank, at age 55, he gave himself a pep communicate.
The former safety guard — a clean-cut man with silver hair and a doughy body — stood frozen subsequent to the front of Montecito Bank & Trust at a strip mall in Carpinteria, a mellow seaside the town about 12 miles southeast of Santa Barbara. Hayes had filled a pillow in his blouse and pulled a Zoo York cap low over his face. It used to be five:15 p.m. on April 27, 2017 and he’d spent weeks researching easy methods to pull off the heist. Now, he instructed himself, “You just need the cojones.”
“It felt like I had a devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other,” Hayes instructed me a 12 months after the crime. “The angel was saying, ‘Don’t do it. You could go to prison for 20 years.’ And the devil was saying, ‘It’s Friday. You’re broke. Are you really gonna go the whole weekend without drugs, you loser?'”
So Hayes walked within and passed a feminine teller a be aware challenging money. “Sorry,” he stated sooner than bolting. “Family emergency.”
All instructed, he used to be out the door and into his Volkswagen Jetta with $three,300 in lower than 3 mins.
Over the subsequent 5 months, the heroin addict struck 10 extra banks in the Los Angeles and Santa Barbara spaces. Dubbed the “PT Cruiser Bandit” by means of native media for the champagne-colored getaway automobile he purchased with stolen money, he swiped just about $40,00zero sooner than FBI brokers stormed his driveway with weapons blazing.
Truth learn, there used to be a time when 40 grand would had been chump trade for Hayes. Nearly 20 years sooner than his theft spree, he won a $19 million lottery. He spent giant — Lamborghinis, Porsches and Harleys, million-dollar oceanfront condos, extravagant playing journeys to Vegas.
On the day he used to be busted, Hayes used to be a penniless junkie dwelling in a storage.
“Having money enabled me to live my wildest dreams,” he stated. “But there’s a flip side. It’s the lottery curse.”
• • • • • •
James Allen Hayes grew up 20 mins from the seaside in the middle-class town of Camarillo, California. As a child, he had a knack for violin and became the youngest member of the county orchestra, he stated. At age 13, his mentally-ill mother bodily abused him and kid protecting products and services despatched him to reside together with his grandma, Melba, in keeping with courtroom paperwork. He by no means knew his dad.
The subsequent 12 months, he hand over violin. “I got interested in girls and they wouldn’t talk to me if I was holding a violin case! LOL!” Hayes wrote in a normally upbeat letter from Terminal Island federal jail in San Pedro, the place he is serving a just about three-year theft sentence. “So I got into cars!”
As an 18-year-old, he hung out browsing and tooling round the seaside in a convertible Baja Bug. “He was cute; he had wild hair and freckles. He looked like a let’s-go-have-fun type of guy,” recollects his former longtime female friend Candace Walker, 53. “He had a funny sense of humor and was usually in a good mood.”
When she were given pregnant at age 17, the couple put the child boy up for adoption. “He didn’t want to be a father, so I ended up finding a family who took our son,” she stated. They stayed in combination for 15 years till Hayes left her for a more youthful girl in 1997, she stated. “I got the boot and got kicked out of the house.”
The subsequent 12 months, at age 35, Hayes hit the jackpot. He used to be operating the graveyard shift guarding business and residential structures for Dial Security, when he purchased a Quick Pick lottery price ticket at a USA Gas Station on January 7, 1998.
His grandma, whom he’d been dwelling with and taking good care of, checked the price ticket all over her morning regimen and woke him up with the information. The odds of successful had been 1 in 18,zero09,460. He used to be ecstatic.
“I know I’ll change but only for the better,” he instructed the Los Angeles Times the subsequent day. “Mainly what I want to do is help out my family and friends in need.”
He added, “I’m not going to blow the money.”
But the just right information got here at a dangerous time. Hayes’ circle of relatives and dating issues were weighing on him. “Right before he won, he was dealing with depression and some pretty severe problems,” stated Stephen Demik, a prison protection legal professional who represented Hayes on the theft case. “But when you win $19 million, your first stop isn’t going to be a psychologist — it’s going to be a new car lot.”
After taxes, Hayes took house $13.7 million, which he scheduled to gained in 20 annual bills of $684,00zero. He right away started burning thru the money.
“I raced Lamborghinis with [pro driver ] Mario Andretti! I owned six different Lambos. I’m a car guy — Bentlys [sic], Porsches, Corvettes, etc,” Hayes wrote. “I owned beachfront houses, had actress girlfriends, you name it, I’ve probably done it.”
At one level, he introduced a marketing strategy to hire unique sports activities vehicles to prime rollers in Las Vegas. “He was spending like crazy,” recollects Walker. “He’d get an advance on the next year’s [lottery] payment and borrow against it. But he was using more than he had.”
She added, “All that money changed him. He got a hotsty-totsy attitude.”
At automobile displays, Hayes met celebrities like L.A. Lakers legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and type/actress Lauren Hutton. He additionally purchased a flashy 1932 Ford Roadster from the son of Mel Blanc, the voice actor who performed Bugs Bunny, in keeping with David Parker, his former non-public photographer who documented Hayes’s extravagant way of life.
“Because of his cars, he met celebrities like Mario Andretti, who picked one of his Lamborghinis — I would say the color was nail-polish pink — to drive at the Running of the Bulls,” Parker stated, referencing a luxurious sports activities automobile tournament that drew rich and well-known contributors. “He had a lot of toys and was in that crowd.”
When Hayes divorced his first spouse, Stephanie, in the overdue ’90s, she used to be awarded part of his annual lottery bills, in keeping with courtroom paperwork. But he nonetheless splurged on $10,00zero Rolex watches, Persian rugs, five-star motels, and Harley Davidson bikes, in keeping with his 2d spouse, Stephanie Wysinger-Hayes. (Hayes married two Stephanies.)
“He developed a taste for the best. When I got together with him, he had 17 cars. He’d let my kids drive his Ferrari,” stated Wysinger-Hayes. “He was living a flashy life and I was enjoying his gifts.” He quickly had her beautiful blonde symbol painted on one among his bikes.
Hayes plunked down more or less $1 million on an oceanfront pad in Oxnard, California, and snapped up 3 different houses within sight and in Utah, in keeping with Wysinger-Hayes. He took her out to elaborate foods and paid for lavish holidays. “We’d go to Vegas and gamble. He always felt he was either very unlucky or very lucky,” she stated, including he would throw down hundreds at the roulette desk. “Jim does everything big.”
After they had been married on Valentine’s Day 2002, she urged he take a monetary category. As a banker, she used to be just right with cash and concept he’d take pleasure in a lesson on wealth control. “He got caught up in the excitement — new money can do that to you,” she stated.
Worse, it appeared like he used to be the use of the money to fill an emotional void. “He didn’t really get to have a childhood, so winning the lottery made him act like a kid in candy store,” she stated.
He additionally gave away an excessive amount of dough to friends, who once in a while confirmed up “out of the woodwork” soliciting for loans or handouts, in keeping with Wysinger-Hayes. “I think he had a form of ‘survivors’ guilt.’ He thought, ‘I won and I didn’t deserve it, so I need to share the wealth,'” she stated. “He is extremely generous and wears his heart on his sleeve.”
All that cash messed together with his head, Hayes admits. “The flip side of being wealthy is crazy. You think, ‘Do my friends like me, or just my cars, money, and the [financial] help I give them?’ When do you say, ‘I can’t pay your debts anymore?’ Then they hate you!”
His just right good fortune quickly started to expire. He suffered 3 herniated discs in his again because of a former work-related harm and had surgical operation in 2004. When it did not assist, he grew to become to prescription capsules. “Doctors prescribed me Vicodin, Norco, then Oxycontin. I was addicted without even knowing it,” Hayes stated. “I started to need a stronger and stronger dose.”
In the years that adopted, he did not have a secure activity or healthcare, so he paid for the capsules out of pocket, in keeping with Wysinger-Hayes. Hayes’ annual lottery assessments totaled about $300,00zero after source of revenue tax and alimony bills, she stated. Debts from dwelling massive and making dangerous industry strikes started to pile up and, in 2007, he filed for chapter, information display.
The California Lottery quickly started withholding a few of his annual lottery bills to offset the cash he owed. He additionally bumped into hassle with the IRS and, by means of 2015, “We couldn’t touch the lottery money,” Wysinger-Hayes stated.
Cash-strapped and pill-hooked, Hayes moved into a modest 40-unit condominium advanced, The Leewood residential lodge in Ventura, the place he labored as a supervisor in change without cost hire, in keeping with the construction proprietor, who spoke on the situation of anonymity.
In January 2017, a hearth ripped thru the advanced and Hayes misplaced just about the entirety he owned. A “mentally incompetent” tenant used to be later sentenced to prison time for arson, in keeping with the Ventura County Star. “I personally evacuated all of the tenants. It was over 60 people, two dogs, three cats, and one very scared goldfish,” Hayes stated.
The construction proprietor, who had purchased the advanced a month sooner than the hearth, stated Hayes had get admission to to safety cameras and most likely did assist evacuate tenants — however stated he used to be perhaps exaggerating the choice of folks he rescued.
After the blaze, citizens had been displaced. But Hayes stated he were given screwed by means of the construction proprietor, who indexed him as an unbiased contractor and a “resident manager,” leaving him with out a unemployment advantages, well being care or tenants’ rights. “All of the tenants were given two months’ rent to relocate but… I got nothing,” he stated.
The proprietor contended Hayes by no means had well being care thru the gig and claimed that, “if anything, he was treated better than other tenants as far as relocation.”
Hayes carried out for 38 jobs — however were given nowhere with a dangerous again and a dated resume, in keeping with courtroom papers. He stated interviews went like this: “Can you pick up 50 pounds? All day? Have you ever run a cash register? No? What have you been doing the last 19 years? You won what?!?”
Desperate and broke, he and Wysinger-Hayes moved into a “crazy friend’s garage,” he stated. “I was pissed.”
The hearth will have been a horrible coincidence, however it isn’t atypical for individuals who hit the jackpot to later move broke. “A lot of lottery winners commit suicide or end up destitute within a decade,” stated Demik, who previously labored at a regulation company that catered virtually completely to this area of interest demographic. “They jump social status so quickly, they’re not prepared for it.”
“Common sense tells you that if you win millions, your life is made — but it doesn’t always end up like that.”
• • • • • •
With no talent to pay for Oxycontin out of pocket, withdrawal hit Hayes like a nasty case of the flu. “You’re shaking in a bed, cold, teeth chattering,” he stated. “You put extra blankets over yourself, but now you’re hot, sweating profusely. Every cell in your body is screaming in pain! Your mind tells you, ‘You need your pills and you’ll feel normal.’ It’s like when your brain tells you, ‘Breath, you need more oxygen.'”
Eventually, he went in search of a treatment. “I turned to street drugs,” he stated. “The first time I tried heroin, I dissolved it into water and sniffed it. It took away my back pain and pill sickness for 48 hours. I thought, ‘Wow, that’s the answer!'” Heroin used to be less expensive than Oxy however he nonetheless wanted cash to attain.
Hayes used to be being attentive to ’80s steel song together with his 10-pound Maine Coon cat, Dr. Pepper, when the concept struck to rob a bank. “I mentally snapped,” he stated. “I was broke, dope-sick, pissed off at the world, living in a garage with my beloved cat looking up at me hungry.”
The crime used to be simple sufficient to justify. “I would never steal from a working guy. I would never steal an old lady’s purse,” he stated. “But I truly thought robbing a bank was a victimless crime, that it’s not the teller’s money, it’s the bank’s — and I hate banks.”
As he weighed the execs and cons, the tune “Breaking the Law” by means of Judas Priest blasted.
So a lot for the golden long term I will’t even get started
I have had each and every promise damaged, there may be anger in my middle
You do not know what it is like, you shouldn’t have a clue
If you probably did, you’ll in finding yourselves doing the similar factor too
Breaking the regulation, breaking the regulation
By the finish of the tune he’d made up his thoughts.
• • • • • •
Hayes used to be surprised by means of how simple the first theft used to be. “I’d never been so scared in my entire life — until I walked out of the bank with those 100-dollar bills,” he stated. “The poor teller was right out of central casting. She looked like a librarian; she was terrified,” he stated. “She just handed [the money] over.”
Later, whilst staring at TV information, he discovered investigators were not precisely directly to him, he stated. “They said cops were looking for a 350-pound Hispanic male. I said, ‘Oh man! I got away with this.'” (A neighborhood station described the suspect as white or Hispanic and heavier than Hayes.)
As his crime spree spread out, Hayes learn the entirety from true crime thrillers to web threads for recommendations on easy methods to pull off a low-risk heist. He most often struck at round five p.m. as police officers modified shifts. He disguised his frame sort and sprayed his palms with liquid bandages to steer clear of leaving prints. And he by no means introduced a gun, which might building up his jail time if he were given stuck. But most significantly, he needed to be long gone in 3 mins or much less.
“After I did the first one, it was so easy. It was like, wow,” Hayes stated. “It got easier and easier every time. I was completely hooked. I was getting off on it. It was like a game.”
During his 2d theft, on May 24, 2017, he passed a teller a be aware that learn, “$5,000, no signals, no dye, no packs, no GPS, no sensors — no eye contact” at a Union Bank, in keeping with an 11-count federal indictment.
Using the cash from the robberies, he purchased the champagne-colored PT Cruiser and started spending $1,00zero a week on heroin, courtroom paperwork display. In June, he hit a Wells Fargo and a within sight Chase Bank in the landlocked suburban the town of Newhall. His largest payday got here in July 25, 2017, when he swiped $7,200 from a Logix Federal Credit Union in Valencia.
More robberies adopted with the similar M.O., in which Hayes handed a be aware, claimed to have a gun and once in a while apologized to the teller sooner than fleeing, FBI Special Agent Ingerd Sotelo, the lead investigator on the case, instructed me. “You could see the robberies were escalating in frequency. We were hoping they wouldn’t escalate in violence,” she stated. “Our motivation was that he was prolific and we didn’t want anyone to get hurt.”
Sotelo evolved a principle that the serial criminal lived someplace alongside Highway 126, which hooked up the banks. But leads had been going nowhere. “Random tips came in that led to nothing,” she stated. “There were things we tried to do with his telephone, but he turned it off or didn’t bring it.”
Behind the scenes, Hayes says he used to be operating to guide the FBI off monitor by means of scattering strangers’ DNA at the banks he robbed. “One of my favorite things I did was to go to my friend’s barbershop, gather up hair and spread it,” Hayes stated, claiming the samples led the feds to different individuals of pastime. “It was like a game. But you don’t want to make it personal with the FBI.”
Sotelo contends that “no hairs or fibers were collected… There was never any other person we considered.”
The FBI quickly despatched out a press liberate asking the public for assist catching a thief they known as “The Seasoned Bandit” for his obvious age and silver-gray hair. The thriller criminal — who had robbed no less than 9 banks — used to be “in his 50s or 60s” and wore “casual clothing, a hat and sunglasses,” in keeping with the press liberate dated Sept. eight, 2017.
Through all of it, Hayes saved the crime spree a secret from Wysinger-Hayes, who insists she had no clue about it. “He didn’t tell me because I could have gone to jail as an accomplice,” she stated. “He was protecting me.”
In September, Hayes struck the similar Wells-Fargo he’d hit in June however fled empty-handed as a result of an worker identified him. “I knew he was going hit again because he was out of money,” Sotelo recalled. Agents arrange a digicam on Highway 126 that captured his automobile and registration number plate, which Hayes hadn’t but registered, as he fled from a theft on Sept. 26, 2017, she stated. With the assist of an nameless tipster, who known as together with his identify, the FBI grew to become its consideration to Hayes.
Within a week, the feds had been onto him.
• • • • • •
Hayes used to be strolling out of his good friend’s storage on Oct. 2, when he heard any person shout “Don’t move!” He appeared up and noticed greater than a dozen FBI brokers, dressed in brilliant inexperienced bulletproof vests, with their guns drawn.
“They took me down at gunpoint, 15 agents with AR-15s and Glock pistols. There were so many laser sights on my body, I looked like I had the measles,” he stated. Agents cuffed him, stripped off his blouse and searched him for firearms. A complete of 10 weapons had been registered in his identify, in keeping with Sotelo.
Agents slapped cuffs on Wysinger-Hayes, too. “They treated us like Bonnie and Clyde,” she stated. “I was in handcuffs flat on my stomach, spread-eagle. I told them they had the wrong people.”
The feds break up up the couple and took them to split interrogation rooms. “You know exactly why you’re here,” one among them barked, in keeping with Wysinger-Hayes. They grilled her over her former activity as a banker and recommended her to confess she used to be in on the heists. “I told them, ‘My husband’s not a bank robber — you’re high on crack!'” she stated. “I thought it was a case of mistaken identity.”
When the brokers confirmed her a safety digicam symbol of Hayes at the bank, mid-robbery, she nonetheless did not imagine it. “They said to me, ‘What do you think of this picture?’ And I said, ‘That’s not him — my husband would never be caught dead in a fedora!'”
“But then they showed me a picture of him in a baseball cap, and I said, ‘Oh my God, that’s him,” she added. “It was one of the freakiest moments of my life.” She used to be no longer charged with a crime.
In the different room, Hayes requested for a cigarette and confessed right away. “He was very forthcoming. He was a lot more cooperative than [Wysinger-Hayes],” Sotelo stated. He used to be despatched to a federal detention heart in Los Angeles, the place he detoxed from heroin, chilly turkey. “Nine out of 10 bank robbers have a drug problem. So he was not unique in that way,” Sotelo stated.
Once Hayes were given clear, his character modified. “When I first met him, he was combative and recalcitrant,” Demik recollects. “But after a week and a half — after he had detoxed — his personality changed 180 degrees. It was like Jekyll and Hyde. He was a completely different person under the influence of heroin.”
In March, Hayes pleaded accountable to 4 counts of theft. Demik argued he must get a lenient sentencing because of his clear prison report, tough upbringing, and the incontrovertible fact that the crime used to be non-violent. “He didn’t even have a gun… This is hardly John Dillinger,” Demik wrote in courtroom papers. “Mr. Hayes was a pitiful drug addict, living in a garage and dealing with one of the worst addictions ever.”
Winning the lottery used to be in part guilty, Demik wrote in courtroom papers. “[Hayes] won $19 million, however, much of that money was either absorbed by taxes, bad investments or shared 50 percent with his ex-wife. After winning the lottery he began to suffer from the ‘lottery curse,’ losing his bearing in life. He ended up poor and destitute.”
Hayes’ brother Ben vouched for him, too. “He is the type of person who will go out of his way to help someone in need. I cannot fully express how out of character the crimes my brother has committed are,” he wrote in a letter to the pass judgement on.
Ben later instructed me he did not wish to speak about Hayes’ crime spree. “I’m sick of thinking about it,” he stated. “It’s embarrassing.”
On sentencing day, Hayes instructed the pass judgement on he felt terrible about what he’d executed. “I think it was sincere — that he was speaking from the heart,” Demik stated. “He’s a good person and I think the judge saw that.”
Hayes used to be sentenced to 33 months in jail at the side of 3 years of supervised liberate and $39,424 in restitution. “He could have gotten a lot more time,” Sotelo stated.
• • • • • •
To pay attention Hayes inform it, incarceration has executed extra just right for him than successful the lottery ever did.
“Prison is the most horrible thing ever but I’m thankful it happened. It saved my life. I should have overdosed 100 times — and now I’m eight months sober,” he stated. He’s been exercising, making artwork, and getting in contact together with his religious facet in the back of bars, he stated.
The robberies now appear to be an insane dream. “I did shit I can’t believe. Would I have killed somebody? No. But I really thought it wasn’t going to hurt anyone. That’s how messed up I was from this drug,” he stated.
He added, “I’ve had epiphanies since then. I’ve been thinking, what if my wife had been a teller? She’d be traumatized. And trauma has a ripple effect; it goes on and on.”
Wysinger-Hayes lately moved to Utah, the place she has family. She plans to return to university and find out about sociology or psychology. Looking again, she thinks that state lotteries must higher get ready people who hit the jackpot. “They should have a mandatory class on what to do when you win,” she stated. “Because money doesn’t equal happiness — it can really screw up your life.”
Hayes’ liberate date is Feb. 23, 2020. When he will get out, he needs to post a memoir with the operating name Lottery to Robbery, and to make amends with pals and circle of relatives. Most of all, he’d like issues to be boring for a trade.
“Everything about how you live can be either low, medium, or over the top,” he stated. “If I could change one thing about myself, I’d be more in the middle.”