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"I made the decision to exact revenge": The oldest bank robber to be found guilty was in his 90s


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    At 91 years old, J.L. Hunter Rountree, known as “Red,” was caught red-handed robbing a bank, making him the oldest convicted bank robber.

    After pleading guilty to robbing $1,999 (£1,243.08) from a bank in Abilene, Texas, USA on 12 August 2003, he was sentenced to 151 months in prison on 23 January 2004, which he served at the US Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Fort Worth, Texas.

    Unarmed, Rountree shuffled into a bank in Abilene, Texas, carrying two envelopes, one of which had the word "Robbery" written on it in red ink.

    Wearing a blue baseball cap and a black long-sleeved shirt, he proceeded to the counter and handed the bank clerk both envelopes.

    Rountree told the teller to stuff money into the other envelope, otherwise she would get hurt.

    "I'd say, 'Fill it with money and do it quick'," Rountree said in a jail interview. 

    "And usually they do because they're told at school to do what the robber says."

    After asking Rountree twice if he was kidding, the teller put the money into the envelope and Rountree then made off in a white 1996 Buick sedan, according to police.

    photo-of-j-h-rountree-being-arrested.jpg

    But Rountree wasn’t kidding at all.

    Thirty minutes later, he was pulled over by police on a highway about 20 miles (32 km) from the crime scene, after a bank employee noted the license plate of the vehicle.

    "When they caught me, I was driving down the highway at 70 mph and saw the lights flashing behind me. So, I kicked it up to 90. They did too.”

    “I slowed down and pulled over. The guy walked up beside the car with a gun in my face and said, 'Get it out of the car.' I said 'take that damn thing out of my face. I don't even own a gun. I've never owned a gun," said Rountree.

    Rountree’s method of operation was to place tape over his car’s license plate before a bank heist, but he didn’t do that the morning of the Abilene robbery.

    "Oh hell, I'll just hide the car. I didn't do a good enough job hiding the car. When I walked out of the bank, I saw the Vice President of the bank. He saw me get into the car," Rountree said.

    Rountree said he robbed his first bank when he was about 80 as revenge against banks for sending him into a financial crisis.

    He was also caught holding up a bank in Biloxi, Mississippi, in 1998 when he was 87, and given three years' probation. 

    Then in 1999, Rountree robbed a bank in Pensacola, Florida, and served a three-year sentence as the oldest prisoner in the state.

    Rountree said he had gotten away with a bunch of bank robberies and that his secret was “being smarter than the banker, and that’s not being very smart.”

    image-of-US-Medical-Center-for-Federal-Prisoners.jpg

    Before falling on hard times, Rountree had been a businessman selling anchor chain winches for offshore drilling rigs in Texas.

    After retiring, he was forced to find work again, when his retirement money soon dried up. 

    He began working for a Houston oil field supply business. 

    Shortly after, he bought a shipyard in Corpus Christi and pulled out a two-million-dollar loan for supplies to build boats. 

    But Rountree says the bank pulled the loans from underneath him, causing him to file for bankruptcy.

    However, losing money was only the beginning of Rountree’s troubles.

    His stepson was killed in a car crash, and his wife of 50 years eventually died of lung cancer.

    Rountree turned to drugs and alcohol with a 31-year-old woman he met in a bar. 

    He married her, divorced a year later, and began his bank robbing spree at 82-years-old.

    In a prison interview with the Orlando Sentinel in 2001, Rountree said, "A Corpus Christi (Texas) bank that I'd done business with had forced me into bankruptcy. I have never liked banks since.”

    "I decided I would get even. And I have." 

    He also told the paper that prison food was better than what was served at some nursing homes.

    image-of-handcuffs-on-pile-of-money.jpg

    Rountree passed away at 92 years old at the US Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield, Missouri on 12 October 2004, and is buried in a cemetery near the prison.

    Sources


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