A California man who won the lottery 20 years ago was sentenced to prison for bank robbery Thursday.
James Allen Hayes was sentenced to 33 months in prison after pleading guilty to four federal counts of bank robbery, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California.
Hayes won $19 million in the SuperLotto jackpot in 1998, according to the Los Angeles Times. The 35-year-old security guard supervisor didn’t have a savings account and intended to use the winnings for IRS payments, a vacation, his car and friends and family.
“I'm not going to blow the money,” Hayes told the newspaper. “I know I'll change. But only for the better.”
Nearly 20 years later, authorities were searching for a man accused of robbing at least nine banks in Los Angeles and Santa Barbara counties. The man, nicknamed the “Seasoned Bandit,” would pass a note to a teller demanding cash and threatening gun violence, according to a Sept. 2017 FBI press release.
The bank robber, identified as Hayes, was arrested in October and accused of stealing nearly $40,000, according to CBS Los Angeles.
Hayes’s public defender, Hilary Potashner, said in a court document that her client was a victim of the “lottery curse,” according to KTLA.
Hayes split the lottery winnings with his ex-wife and spent much of his $6 million lump sum on taxes and bad investments.
His public defender wrote that Hayes became “poor and destitute” after losing his job, home and health insurance in the year leading up to his arrest, KTLA reported.
He became addicted to opiates after surgery and started using heroin after losing his health insurance, according to the court filing.
At the time of his arrest, Hayes was living in an abandoned garage, authorities told CBS Los Angeles.
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