For two months, she carried out a string of bank robberies in the US states of California, Arizona and Utah, going up to tellers and telling them she would detonate a bomb if they did not hand her the cash.
The FBI, which went after her following the robberies last year, dubbed her “The Bombshell Bandit” — apparently as much for her modus operandi as for the way she looked and dressed.
This week, a judge in St George, Utah sentenced 24-year-old Sandeep Kaur to 66 months in prison, and ordered her to pay tens of thousands of dollars in fines, US media reported. The Indian American professional nurse from Union City, California admitted that she was indeed ‘The Bombshell Bandit’, and pleaded guilty to four robberies.
St George-based The Spectrum reported that Sandeep took $21,200 at her first robbery at a Bank of the West branch in Valencia, California, on June 6, 2014. Subsequently she robbed $1,978 and $8,000 at banks in Lake Havasu City, Arizona, and San Diego, California.
Her fourth robbery attempt, at a St George bank, led to her arrest in July, eight weeks after her first crime, The Spectrum said.
According to the report, Sandeep faced up to 20 years in federal prison on each of the four charges, besides a $250,000 fine for each charge. However, District Judge Ted Stewart issued her a five-and-a-half-year sentence.
Sandeep’s lawyer Jay Winward pleaded that Sandeep had been a victim of her “upbringing” — “trapped” as she was by her Sikh culture, “by family difficulties and by bullies in her society”, The Spectrum reported.
“She’s educated, she has great worth to society, and she does want to make amends,” the report quoted Winward as having said.
According to Winward, Sandeep had had some success at the stock market, but then fallen prey to a gambling addiction and “other excesses” in Las Vegas. She had fled Vegas to an arranged marriage, but it did not work out and she returned, only to enter a “deeper and darker” predicament, the lawyer told the court, according to The Spectrum.
Judge Stewart noted that Sandeep had a debt with “a loan shark” and had turned to crime to repay him. “That conduct explains why she did what she did, but by no means justifies what she did. It cannot be used as an excuse in the court’s mind,” The Spectrum quoted Stewart as having said.
Kaur must repay the banks whose money could not be recovered, the court ruled.