Because That's Where the Money Is

A surprising spike in bank robberies hits Minnesota

The vast majority of bank robbers are rarely so crafty or successful as the trench coat duo. Most are desperate men (very few are women) who are looking for quick cash, often to satisfy the need for a fix. According to FBI statistics, the average take for a bank robbery in 2003 was just over $10,000. Roughly half of the people known to be involved were drug users.

"It's a poor man's crime," notes defense attorney Joseph Tamburino, who currently represents a man accused of four Minnesota bank robberies. "It's a crime of desperation. It's definitely not Willie Sutton."

It is also a sucker's game. Because robbing a bank is a federal crime, offenders face longer time behind bars than if they robbed a restaurant or a bar. Under federal law, the maximum for armed bank robbery is 25 years and a $250,000 fine. Federal inmates also must serve at least 85 percent of their sentence. By contrast, the maximum for armed robbery under Minnesota law is 20 years, with the possible sentence reduction of a third for good behavior.

The fate of Brett Aklestad is typical for a Minnesota bank robber. After fleeing Minnesota following the two TCF robberies, Aklestad made his way to Portland, Oregon, where he was soon picked up on a charge of unlawfully possessing a handgun. While in custody, Aklestad confessed to committing the TCF heists . He is currently awaiting sentencing. He's expected to serve at least 10 years in prison.

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