‘Traveling Bandit’ suspect has history of robbing banks

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Jason Lee Robinson

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (WJHL) – When Jason Lee Robinson went before a federal judge in Colorado last week, it wasn’t the first time he’s appeared in a federal courtroom on a bank robbery charge.

The FBI believes Robinson is the “Traveling Bandit”, a man connected to seven bank robberies in six states. Federal investigators have linked him to bank heists in Florida, North Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, Illinois, and Utah. 

He was arrested by FBI agents last Thursday in Colorado. According to police in Utah, agents found him at a hotel in the city of Fruita. 

Court records show Robinson has a history of bank robbery, including two stints in federal prison for robberies in Kentucky and Indiana. 

Unlike the string of recent bank robberies he’s now accused of committing, he didn’t travel far from his hometown of Pikeville, Kentucky to commit his first hold up, according to records.

On the afternoon of August 11, 2008, a man walked into a Community Trust Bank in Middlesboro, Kentucky, and handed a note to a teller.

“Don’t say a word, I have a gun, I will kill you, give me $20,000, I will kill you,” the note read.   

The man then showed the teller what appeared to be the handle of a revolver. 

The teller told the robber she didn’t have $20,000. He told her to give him everything she had instead. She handed over $3,313. He took the cash and fled the bank. 

According to court records, the robber had been in the bank on “multiple occasions” earlier that day. At one point, records state, he unsuccessfully attempted to withdraw money from someone else’s account. The FBI said he was “casing” the bank in those pre-robbery visits.

The follow day, the same robber targeted a Community Trust branch in Pikeville. Just before noon, he walked in and handed a note to one of the tellers. 

“This is a stick-up, I have a gun, I will kill you, give me $20,000,” the note demanded. 

Just like in the robbery the day before, the teller told the man she didn’t have that much money. He ordered her to give him all the cash she had. She forked over $3,926. 

The robber was last seen leaving the bank in a white Chrysler minivan. 

Pikeville police quickly identified Robinson as the suspect. They also determined that his girlfriend, Amanda Eplin, was behind the wheel of the getaway vehicle in the second robbery.

The duo were arrested later that day, according to WSAZ. A Pikeville detective told EKB News they identified Robinson from surveillance camera footage. He said investigators then visited his grandfather, who identified his grandson as the bank robber. Police arrested Robinson at a Kentucky Fried Chicken in Pikeville after his grandfather dropped him off there.    

EKB News reported that Eplin was arrested and charged with conspiracy after she showed up at the police department for questioning. 

According to court records, Robinson confessed to the robberies the day after his arrest. He told investigators he robbed the banks to pay off his girlfriend’s drug debt and said he had given her all the money. The gun he displayed during the first robbery was just a replica.

Robinson was charged with one count of armed bank robbery and one count of bank robbery in federal court. 

Court records reveal he had previously been charged with misdemeanor assault and felony theft in the years leading up to the Eastern Kentucky bank robberies. The theft charge was the result of Robinson stealing a car in Kentucky and driving it to Florida where he was arrested. According to court records, his mental health issues were a factor in the Commonwealth’s decision to offer him judicial diversion in lieu of incarceration for the theft.

He was still under a post-conviction diversion program when he robbed the two eastern Kentucky banks.

Robinson pleaded guilty to both bank robbery charges and was sentenced to 63 months in federal prison plus five years of supervised release. 

According to court documents, he had two children at the time. 

Records show Robinson was released from federal custody and began his five years of supervised release on June 14, 2013.

He robbed another bank just six days later, according to investigators. 

On June 20, a man wearing a white shirt, blue jeans, and white hat walked into a Scott County State Bank in Scottsburg, Indiana. He handed a note to an employee. 

“This is a robbery, give me the money in the top drawer, no die (sic) pack, no talking,” the note read. 

The bank employee laid a stack of bills on the counter. The robber put them in his pocket and left the bank. A witness saw the robber hurry from the bank, get into a gray minivan, and drive off just before police arrived. 

Two days after the Indiana holdup, local police received an anonymous tip. Someone said they saw the robbery suspect on the news and believed it was James Robinson. The minivan belonged to Robinson’s grandmother, the tipster said. 

Investigators spoke to the grandmother, who confirmed Robinson had recently taken her van and not returned it. 

Two weeks later, according to court records, Robinson was behind the wheel of his grandmother’s minivan when he was pulled over outside of Phoenix, Arizona. He was arrested and charged with one count of bank robbery. He also faced an additional penalty for violating the terms of his supervised release, which prohibited him from leaving eastern Kentucky without permission.

Robinson pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 48 months for the robbery and 24 months for the supervised release violation. The court ordered him to pay $1,378 in restitution. After serving his sentence, he was to spend three years on supervised release. 

According to the Bureau of Prisons, Robinson was released from their custody in November 2018. Again, he was told not to leave eastern Kentucky without permission. 

A month later, according to the FBI, Robinson launched the bank robbery spree he is now accused of by holding up a bank in Aventura, Florida on Dec. 28.

Investigators say the so-called Traveling Bandit drove nearly 3,500 miles to rob banks in Asheville, North Carolina; Johnson City, Tennessee; Mt. Juliet, Tennessee; Prattville, Alabama; Mount Vernon, Illinois; and Price, Utah. 

Just over four weeks after the alleged robbery spree began, Robinson was taken into custody. He is still begin held in Colorado. 

So far, he has only been charged with the bank robbery in Aventura, Florida. The U.S. Marshals will take him back to Florida where his case will be handled. 

The FBI has not revealed how much money Robinson allegedly took from the seven banks he is accused of robbing.

Gallery: Traveling Bandit

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