SUBSCRIBE NOW
Only $39 for one year.
SUBSCRIBE NOW
Only $39 for one year.

VIDEO: Boca bank robber, 74, who told teller he gave him too much, calls crime ’cry for help’

Staff Writer
Walton Sun
Walton Sun

WEST PALM BEACH — At 74 years old, Sandy Hawkins called his one-day career as a criminal "a cry for help."

On Friday, the cry was answered.

The hard-luck bank robber, who in November made headlines when he robbed a bank and told the teller that he'd handed over too much money, was facing a second-degree felony conviction and serious jail time. Instead, he'll spend the next year at The Lord's Place, an organization that provides housing for the homeless. After that, the state will drop the charge.

Hawkins, who turned 74 in December, appeared in court Friday, white mustache and all, in a nautical-themed shirt and red suspenders. Alongside him: not just any assistant public defender, but the county’s Public Defender herself, Carey Haughwout.

"He's pretty compelling," Haughwout said afterward.

In court Friday, Circuit Judge Jeffrey Gillen approved the pretrial intervention deal, which includes community service at The Lord’s Place.

"I will happily sign this," Gillen said.

Technically, Hawkins wasn't eligible for the pretrial intervention because of the seriousness of the charges. But prosecutors said it was the best solution given Hawkins' circumstances and lack of a criminal record.

After the hearing, Hawkins would not discuss the events of Nov. 18 at the Wells Fargo bank branch, west of Boca Raton. It was just blocks from where he had been living.

"It bothers me too much," Hawkins said. "It was my way of, basically, a cry for help."

’Give me $1,100 now. No alarms. Hope to get caught’

Hawkins has said he had all of $38 to his name when he walked into the bank, near State Road 7 and just north of the Broward County line, and told a teller it was a robbery and that he had a weapon. He didn’t.

The bank teller counted out $2,000 in $100 bills, but Hawkins said no, he wanted only $1,100.

Palm Beach County Sheriff's deputies showed still photos from bank surveillance-camera video at nearby businesses, and one manager fingered Hawkins, who was arrested.

Hawkins later told investigators he’d “make it easy” and pulled a bank deposit slip from his pocket with a handwritten note on the back: "Give me $1,100 now. No alarms. Hope to get caught."

"It was pretty clear from the beginning that there was some desperation behind all this," Haughwout said Friday after court.

Hawkins has said that, in short order, he'd lost his wife, his mother and two siblings, and his car was repossessed. He said he suffered from depression. He also said he's dealing with serious health issues but would not elaborate.

People who know Hawkins previously told The Palm Beach Post he’d worked for years in the air-conditioning industry and was devastated by the loss of his wife, Linda. He also owed more than $3,000 in back rent.

Haughwout has said Hawkins ended up dropping the stolen cash as he fled the bank. Authorities have said it was not recovered.

"We will revisit the restitution issue should Mr. Hawkins get some of the benefits we hope he can get," Haughwout told the judge Friday.

She has said Hawkins gets no Social Security money because he's a U.S.-Canada dual citizen. She said people were working on getting him his wife's Social Security payout.

Before getting into The Lord's Place campus in Boynton Beach, Hawkins had been staying at an apartment house in Delray Beach, his rent paid by a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation grant for people who are chronically arrested, or in need of mental health attention, or homeless or poor.

On Friday, Gillen was surprised to hear Hawkins could live at The Lord's Place for as much as seven years, adding, "That was my primary concern, honestly."

Afterward, Hawkins told reporters, "If it hadn't been for The Lord's Place, and the counseling I've got, I'd be in real trouble. But I feel great about today."

Then he walked away with his Lord's Place associates.

"All right, Sandy," Haughwout called out. "Off you go."

EK@pbpost.com

@eliotkpbp