Bucket list Bandit suspect indicted

Tuesday , March 18, 2014 - 3:28 PM

Joe Mandak

PITTSBURGH— A man nicknamed the Bucket List Bandit by the FBI because he reportedly told a Utah bank teller he had only months to live during a July heist has been returned to Pennsylvania and indicted on one of 10 bank robberies he’s suspected of committing.

Michael Eugene Brewster, 54, faces a single count of bank robbery for the Sept. 10 heist at the Huntingdon National Bank branch in Erie. A federal grand jury returned the indictment Tuesday.

Brewster faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted. He was being held in jail Wednesday until his Thursday detention hearing before a federal magistrate in Erie, according to online court records. Brewster’s federal public defender has refused to comment on the case.

The FBI has said Brewster is suspected of nine more robberies in eight other states since June 21, but authorities couldn’t immediately say Wednesday whether or when he’ll be charged with those heists. Pittsburgh FBI spokeswoman Kelly Kochamba said those matters were "still being coordinated." She also didn’t know whether authorities have determined whether Brewster is terminally ill. She said Brewster would have to request medical assistance through the U.S. Marshal’s office, where officials couldn’t immediately answer that question Wednesday.

FBI agents in Erie were the first to identify Brewster by name and issued a warrant for his arrest after someone called their office and gave agents Brewster’s name and birth date after hearing about news coverage of the northwestern Pennsylvania robbery.

Brewster was arrested Sept. 13 by police in Roland, Okla., near the Arkansas border, when an officer learned of the bank robbery arrest warrant after pulling over Brewster for running a stop sign near a casino.

Court records show Michael Brewster has a long criminal history, having served time in a Kentucky prison and warrants for being a fugitive from justice in Colorado and for drug and property crimes in Florida.

The FBI contends the robbery string began in Arvada, Colo., not long after he took a rented SUV from an acquaintance in Pensacola, Fla., his last known address.

By July 6, surveillance video showed a man with the same appearance — grayish, thinning hair, generally combed or brushed backward, wearing glasses and a blue polo shirt with a front pocket — had robbed banks in Flagstaff, Ariz.; Pocatello, Idaho; and Roy, Utah. That’s where a teller claimed the suspect told her, "I have four months to live" after passing her a note demanding money.

The heists resumed later that month in Winston-Salem, N.C., and continued through late August in Chattanooga, Tenn.; Bloomington, Ill.; Columbia and O’Fallon, Mo., the FBI said.

Nobody was hurt in the robberies, and the total amount of money taken hasn’t been released, though the indictment said Brewster took $4,080 from the Erie bank.

Thursday’s detention hearing will likely result in Brewster remaining incarcerated until he can stand trial. Federal prosecutors must prove either that Brewster is a danger to the community or a risk to flee prosecution for the judge to order continued detention.

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