UPDATE: “Bearded Bandit” to Appear in Federal Court this Week

March 28, 2016 18:00 pm · 9 comments

Instead of making his initial court appearance in Contra Costa County, the alleged serial bank robber dubbed the “Bearded Bandit” will be appearing in federal court later this week, prosecutors said today.

Kenneth Ellis, who is accused of stealing about $27,000 from 11 Northern California banks to pay his bills, is slated for a hearing in an Oakland courtroom on Thursday, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Ellis, a 30-year-old Stockton resident, was arrested Wednesday in Brentwood and was immediately charged by the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office in connection with bank robberies in Concord and Lafayette.

He was scheduled to appear in a Martinez courtroom this morning to be arraigned on those charges, but instead will head to federal court in Oakland to be arraigned there Thursday morning after the FBI filed a criminal complaint against him.

The complaint filed Friday provided additional details about the approach Ellis used during the alleged robbery spree, as well as his motive, which he said was “extreme financial difficulty.”

After his arrest Wednesday, he told Concord police investigators that he used the money from the bank robberies to pay his bills, according to court documents.

According to the documents, during interviews he confessed to the 11 bank robberies that occurred starting Feb. 12, along with other “casing” incidents in which he entered banks that he did not immediately rob.

A March 11 robbery at a Wells Fargo bank located at 4599 Clayton Road in Concord was described in the documents. A man approached a bank teller and presented a note that read, “No die (sic) packs, no silent alarms, no tracking devices, this is a robbery, keep quiet.”

A similar note was used during a robbery at a Chase Bank branch at 3492 Mt. Diablo Blvd. in Lafayette on March 21, the last day of the alleged spree, according to court documents.

The notes were discarded after each incident, Ellis allegedly told investigators. He also said he discarded various clothing — purchased at Goodwill — that he wore during the robberies, according to court documents.

Ellis was arrested after a citizen reported seeing him with his signature full, trimmed beard in a Brentwood Safeway on Wednesday.

Brentwood police officers did not immediately find Ellis at the Safeway, but the Mustang he was suspected of using was located in the parking lot, police said.

Police said he came back to the vehicle after trying to ditch his distinctive look, shaving his head bald and shaving his beard into a goatee.

The officers eventually conducted a traffic stop on him and he surrendered peacefully.

Besides the two Contra Costa County incidents, he’s suspected of robberies in Solano, Alameda and Santa Clara counties, along with Bay Area-neighboring Monterey, Yolo and Sacramento counties.

DanMtz March 28, 2016 at 6:21 PM

Sounds like a series of epic bad decisions. He may have stolen from one bank to pay another. Bankruptcy is an option and won’t destroy your life if you are in such dire straits.

grah March 28, 2016 at 6:27 PM

Probably could have downgraded the mustang

Chris K March 28, 2016 at 6:49 PM

Federal? There goes prop 47..

Little Red Hen March 28, 2016 at 6:54 PM

Most people use “GO FUND ME” but that is also a form of robbery

babytruck March 28, 2016 at 7:30 PM

He got 27k out of the 11 banks that he robbed. That’s about 2,500 on average per branch. I guess at the time he felt it was worth it. People do desperate things. It’s a good thing none of the employees got hurt. But I’m sure his family is hurting now. Sucks.

TK March 28, 2016 at 7:53 PM

$27,000 over 11 hauls? That’s a really low average.


thx4youropinion March 28, 2016 at 8:21 PM

“Extreme financial difficulty …”

Note to Public Defender — Have him keep the lollipop out of the mouth in the courtroom.

dogbertt March 28, 2016 at 9:50 PM

KCRA is reporting he owns a game store in Modesto (a quick Google search shows there is one owned by a person having the same name). Perhaps he anticipated having trouble meeting payroll given the upcoming increase in the minimum wage.

anonanonagain March 29, 2016 at 3:02 AM

He had extreme financial difficulty. And the courts are supposed to have sympathy and give him a lesser sentence for this pathetic excuse? If everyone and their ailing grandmother robbed banks because of financial hardships, this world would be an even greater mess….

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