01/06/2012 04:34 pm ET

'Dying Son Bandit' Held Up Five Southern California Banks Since November

In Southern California, one father is claiming that his family's staggering hospital bills are driving him to a life of crime as a bank robber. Known among local law enforcement authorities as the "Dying Son Bandit," he has reportedly been apologetic during bank hold-ups as he explains that he needs the money to pay for his ailing son's care.

FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller told CBS2 that during two bank robberies on Thursday -- one in Dana Point and the other in Lake Forest -- he told tellers that he needed the cash to pay for his family's medical bills.

Eimiller confirmed the report with The Huffington Post and revealed that the FBI has been on the trail of the "Dying Son Bandit" since late last year, when he started robbing banks in San Diego County. In November 2011, he robbed a bank in Carlsbad. In early December, he robbed a bank in Encinitas then a bank in Oceanside on New Year's Eve.

In all three of those cases, Eimiller said, the robber told tellers some version of, "my kid is dying, and I can't afford to pay." The FBI was able to tie the bank robberies in San Diego County with yesterday's hits in Orange County because of the similar M.O. and very clear photos from surveillance cameras.

The FBI described the suspect as a slender caucasian man in his mid-40s with an unshaven face. He was wearing a t-shirt, sunglasses and a baseball cap, and he carried a leather-bound notebook. During one bank robbery in December, he was wearing a Santa hat.

If the claims of the "Dying Son Bandit" turn out to be true, then he comes from a long tradition of bank robbers whose sympathetic stories elicit goodwill from the communities they rob as well as the authorities who seek them. In 1958, for example, an unemployed taxi driver in Los Angeles decided to rob a bank after seeing his seven children cry because they were so hungry. He managed to get away with $540 but was later nabbed by the authorities. When it came time for sentencing, the judge took pity on him: the father got five years' probation instead of what could have been a 20-year sentence.

In 2006, an unemployed 60-year-old man in Michigan robbed a bank of almost $5,000. On the way out of the bank, he pretended to faint, which led to his capture. He later told police that he'd rather be in prison than homeless on the streets.

More recently, an unarmed North Carolina man robbed a bank of $1 last June so that he could get arrested and be put in prison. His motivation: the free health care prisoners receive while incarcerated. The unemployed man had a growth in his chest and two ruptured disks, reported ABC News.



Surveillance photos of the suspected "Dying Son Bandit" courtesy of the FBI.