Feds: Rob­bery sus­pect, 81, banked on re­turn­ing to jail

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - NATION & WORLD - By Jac­ques Billeaud

PHOENIX — An 81-yearold man who has spent most of his adult life be­hind bars for steal­ing from banks said he robbed a credit union in Tuc­son just months af­ter his re­lease from prison be­cause his monthly $800 So­cial Se­cu­rity pay­ment wasn’t enough to live on, ac­cord­ing to court records.

Robert Fran­cis Krebs also told FBI agents that he didn’t wear a dis­guise to the Jan­uary 2018 rob­bery be­cause he “kind of wanted to get caught” and re­turn to prison.

De­tails of the heist were re­vealed in court records filed June 7 over whether Krebs, who turns 82 next month, is men­tally fit to stand trial.

His lawyers say Krebs has re­ported hav­ing symp­toms of Alzheimer’s disease, and a neu­ropsy­chol­o­gist con­cluded Krebs wasn’t com­pe­tent to stand trial be­cause he has dementia.

But two other men­tal health ex­perts have said Krebs was com­pe­tent and be­lieved he was ma­lin­ger­ing, with one ex­pert say­ing Krebs had “em­bel­lished or grossly ex­ag­ger­ated” his con­di­tion to avoid pros­e­cu­tion.

It’s now up to a judge to de­cide whether Krebs will head to­ward trial.

If found in­com­pe­tent, Krebs could be sent to a fa­cil­ity in a bid to make him men­tally fit. But if he can’t be re­stored to com­pe­tency, his bank rob­bery charge could be dis­missed, and he could be civilly com­mit­ted, said Mike Black, a de­fense at­tor­ney in Phoenix who isn’t in­volved in the Krebs case.

It’s rare that charges are dropped be­cause a de­fen­dant was found in­com­pe­tent, Black said. “They never re­lease them,” Black said.

In urg­ing a judge to find Krebs com­pe­tent, pros­e­cu­tors said Krebs ac­knowl­edged to FBI agents that he car­ried out the rob­bery in Tuc­son be­cause “$800 a month in So­cial Se­cu­rity is not very much to live on these days.”

Wil­liam J. Re­hder, a re­tired FBI bank rob­bery ex­pert who isn’t in­volved in Krebs’ case, said peo­ple who spent decades in prison can ill equipped to earn a liv­ing once they are re­leased. Prison pro­vides them with sta­bil­ity, he said.

“They re­ally can’t make it on the out­side,” Re­hder said.

Krebs served more than 30 years in prison for a 1981 bank rob­bery in Florida and was sen­tenced to three years in prison a 1966 con­vic­tion in Chicago for em­bez­zling $72,000 from a bank where he worked as a teller. He also did an­other 17 years in Ari­zona for theft and armed rob­bery con­vic­tions from Ari­zona dat­ing 1980.

He was re­leased from prison in the sum­mer of 2017, about six months be­fore the rob­bery at Pyra­mid Fed­eral Credit Union branch in a strip mall on Tuc­son’s north­ern edge.

Au­thor­i­ties say Krebs walked into the bank, put a hand­gun that turned out to be a BB gun on the counter, and de­manded cash.

Af­ter walk­ing away from the bank with nearly $8,400, Krebs was later ar­rested at a ho­tel.

Krebs, who has been jailed since his ar­rest 17 months ago, has pleaded not guilty to a bank rob­bery charge stem­ming from the Tuc­son heist.

Krebs’ at­tor­ney Leonardo Costales, who didn’t re­turn a call from The As­so­ci­ated Press seek­ing a com­ment on be­half of his client, said in court records that there’s not enough ev­i­dence to show his client is com­pe­tent.

Krebs is a rar­ity in the world of bank rob­bery, where it’s un­usual for el­derly peo­ple to hold up lend­ing in­sti­tu­tions. Typ­i­cally, bank rob­bers are in their 20s, Re­hder said.

But Krebs isn’t the old­est bank rob­bery sus­pect.

J.L. Hunter “Red” Roun­tree, who has been dubbed Amer­ica’s old­est bank rob­ber, was con­victed of com­mit­ting rob­beries at banks dur­ing the late 1990s and early 2000s in Mis­sis­sippi, Florida and Texas.

Roun­tree, who later died in prison at age 92, com­mit­ted two rob­beries in his mid-80s and was 91 at the time of his last heist.

TUC­SON PO­LICE DE­PART­MENT

Robert Fran­cis Krebs, who has a decades-long record for steal­ing, is charged with rob­bing a credit union in Tuc­son.

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