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Oldest U.S. bank robber gets 12 years

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LUBBOCK, Texas (Reuters) -- The oldest bank robber in the United States, 92-year-old J.L. Hunter Rountree, was sentenced to over 12 years in prison Friday after he pleaded guilty to robbing $1,999 from a Texas bank last August.

Rountree, who goes by the nickname "Red", said he robbed his first bank when he was about 80 because he wanted revenge against banks for sending him into a financial crisis.

Rountree was sentenced to 151 months in a federal prison, which he will serve at the Federal Medical Center in Fort Worth, Texas.

He appeared in court in a loose-fitting prison outfit and shackles on his ankles. He had a cane to help him walk. Rountree listened to the proceedings through headphones because he is hard of hearing.

Police said Rountree, who was not armed, handed two envelopes to a teller at a bank in Abilene, Texas. One envelope had the word "robbery" written in red ink. Rountree told the teller to stuff money into the other envelope, or else she would get hurt.

After asking Rountree twice if he was kidding, she put the money into the envelope and Rountree then made off in a 1996 Buick sedan, police said.

A bank employee noted the license plate of the vehicle and Rountree was pulled over by police on a highway about 20 miles (32 km) from the crime scene, 30 minutes after the robbery.

Rountree left a prison in Florida, where he was the oldest prisoner in the state, about a year and a half ago after serving a three-year sentence imposed on him for a 1999 bank robbery in Pensacola.

He was caught holding up a bank in Biloxi, Mississippi, in 1998 when he was 87, and given three years' probation.

Federal officials said they had no records to prove it, but they are fairly certain Rountree was the oldest person ever to rob a bank in the United States.

In a prison interview with the Orlando Sentinel in 2001, Rountree said he had been a businessman in Texas but had fallen on hard times. He also told the paper that prison food was better than what was served at some nursing homes.

"A Corpus Christi (Texas) bank that I'd done business with had forced me into bankruptcy. I have never liked banks since," he told the paper. "I decided I would get even. And I have."

Copyright 2004 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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