In 2005-06, I studied and perfected the art of bank robbery. I never got caught. I still went to prison, however, because about five months after my last robbery I turned myself in and served three years and some change.

[Edit: Thanks to /u/RandomNerdGeek for compiling commonly asked questions into three-part series below.]

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3


Comments: 12804 • Responses: 67  • Date: 

Notmyrealname5072 karma

:You say that you're retired. But I know a guy who is looking to put together a crew for a major job. This is the one you've been dreaming of all these years. Are you up for one last job?

helloiamCLAY3481 karma

Lol, that's funny. But no. That's the kind of thing that'll get you on the news (if you're lucky enough to get away in the first place).

So even though I'm sure that's a joke, I'll treat it as a real question and say a big hell no. :)

ifiwazatreeyouwldknw3245 karma

1) Did you have a mentor of sorts that you learned from? 2) Did you have a community of bank robbers that you would talk to? 3) If you could go back in time would you have still done it? 4) What do you do now for income?

Thanks! Interesting AMA!

helloiamCLAY4079 karma

1) Only the Internet. I studied countless reports of other robberies that had gone wrong and people who were caught.

2) No. I never told anyone what I was doing. One of the main things I learned from research was that an overwhelming number of people are caught because they didn't do it solo. So I never let anyone (not even my wife or best friend) know what I was doing.

3) Yes. I still acknowledge what I've done, but the process and experience of going to prison and finding myself (as well as a purpose in life) has really made it all worth it, relatively speaking. It's hard to regret something that has turned into something so good.

4) I was working in the oil fields until recently. Now I stay at home with my boys, and I am trying to get a book published and turn that into some sort of career, if at all possible. I've been on a few shows, and people seem genuinely interested in hearing more, so that's what I've decided to do.

Spud_fAce861 karma

If you're any good at writing you should definitely try writing a thriller book related to robberies, you have firsthand experience so it would actually be believable.

helloiamCLAY1511 karma

I'm writing my own non-fiction, actually. if you're interested. There are some excerpts there. Rumor has it I can write.

Puthy426 karma

Is the book about you robbing banks?

helloiamCLAY844 karma

Yes. It's about my entire life, but the bank stuff is a large part of it.

StudentII3102 karma

Would you have harmed someone if you found yourself in a position between that and getting caught?

helloiamCLAY4256 karma

That depends on the situation. If it was just some random guy trying to be a hero, I would have probably gone to any extreme necessary to get away because that's a challenge. On the other hand, if it was a cop or a security guard of some sort, I would have probably let them win.


cathersx32932 karma

What's the most memorable thing that someone has said to you while you were bank robbing?

helloiamCLAY4505 karma

One teller skimped out on me and didn't give me all I had asked for, and I told her, "You can do better than that." She just shrugged -- palms up like a little kid -- and said, "That's all I got."

Pretty ballsy on her part.

cosmobarkley2343 karma

And it probably was all she had.

helloiamCLAY4344 karma

It wasn't. She was being a really brave idiot. She also pocketed a $100 bill for herself.

Needless to say, she got fired.

Edit: Changed always to also. Oops.

Subliminal_Pizza1180 karma

How would you know she pockets money for herself?

helloiamCLAY4028 karma

When my lawyer first brought all my paperwork to me, I noticed that the amount was $100 off for that particular bank. I told him I was 100% sure that they had the amount wrong. So he told the police, the police told the bank, the bank checked the video...

...and they saw her take it. Insane, huh?

Edit: My previous comment should have said also instead of always though. My mistake.

tmetrvl203 karma

Did you tell them they had the amount wrong specifically to get someone in trouble? If not, why?

helloiamCLAY810 karma

I wouldn't have guessed she took it. I was just particular about the facts being straight. If I was going to fess up to that shit, it was going to be perfect and accurate.

bigfootmwfs2495 karma

Can you discuss your MO?

helloiamCLAY3253 karma


Walked in the bank and waited in line like a regular customer. Whichever teller was available to help me is the one I robbed. I simply walked up to them when it was my turn to be helped, and I told them -- usually via handwritten instructions on an envelope -- to give me their $50s and $100s.

gartacus2068 karma

Hm. Doesn't sound like a whole lot. How much would one teller even carry?

helloiamCLAY3155 karma

In their top drawer, it was usually less than $10k. I probably averaged around $5k per bank. But it was pretty low risk that way, so that was cool with me.

DrKushnstein1637 karma

Did you carry a weapon??

helloiamCLAY2626 karma


devllen05958 karma

Was there a threat involved? Or you just said "give me this money" and they did it?

helloiamCLAY2599 karma

No threat. I just told them what I wanted, and they complied. This is how it works in America because the amount of money a bank gives up ($5-$7k on average) per bank robbery is infinitely less than the amount of business they'd lose if shit got wild in a bank full of customers.

They just want to give you what you want and for you to get the hell out of their bank.

almosthere0327806 karma

Hah! I'm almost positive you hit a bank my ex gf used to work at, unless that M.O. is common. She experienced this exact thing, and over a year later the bank was never able to catch the guy.

helloiamCLAY847 karma


almosthere0327678 karma

This was years ago, 06-08ish, in GA.

helloiamCLAY273 karma

Wasn't me.

Potethode1232439 karma

Did anything ever not go as planned?

helloiamCLAY4163 karma

Yes. The last one I did.

The teller freaked out as soon as I turned to leave the bank. She started screaming "lock the doors, lock the doors" but I ignored it and just kept walking like nothing was happening. I got out before the doors were locked, but a guy walking into the bank seconds later already found them locked. He was pissed, of course, because it wasn't closing time, and he thought he had gotten there too late. He obviously didn't realize the guy who had just walked out of the bank and past him had just robbed the bank.

___cats___3330 karma

How many pounds of shit, would you say, were in your pants while walking out the door?

helloiamCLAY4552 karma

1.21 jiggawatts

downtogeneva651 karma

You better watch out for the Libyans man.

helloiamCLAY737 karma


dddarian2417 karma

Are you and your wife still together even after she found out about the robberies?

helloiamCLAY3155 karma

No. We divorced while I was in prison for personal reasons not related to my crimes.

humblepotatopeeler2316 karma

did she discover that you only went to prison to avoid changing diapers? Just kidding.

helloiamCLAY2074 karma


ReturnofTheClap2087 karma

Did you ever actually feel guilty about anything you did? I just want to understand your reasoning--thanks!

helloiamCLAY2769 karma

I never felt guilty because I didn't attacked or assaulted anyone. Under the circumstances, I was as nice as I could possibly be to the bank employees because I did feel a little sympathy for them.

I certainly don't regret the experience of going to prison and finding myself.

ReturnofTheClap1253 karma

Thanks for replying :) Out of curiosity, did you ever feel that the concept of stealing money was wrong? I've heard some people argue that legal stealing is just protected stealing, so I wonder if your reason is similar. Thanks!

helloiamCLAY2376 karma

I don't believe there is such a thing as legal stealing. You either steal or you don't. I'd be happy to respond to a specific scenario you're talking about, but as a general rule, I don't think it's wrong if two people willingly enter a contract even if one side benefits more heavily than the other.

As for me, I think morality is very subjective. I wouldn't steal from an individual person because I'm not comfortable with that. The banks, however, consider this kind of theft an acceptable loss, so that was okay with me being part of the loss that they consider acceptable.

Part of my process did begin with how poorly I thought rich people handled their money. I'd always thought, "If I was that rich, I could change the world instead of just piling up cash." I don't use that to make bank robbery "okay" but that's what made it okay for me at the time.

EatItYoshi691998 karma

This has to be one of my favorite AMA's in a long time. 1) you never wore a mask or disguise so how did they not catch you on camera? Did you know the placement of the cameras and how to avoid them? 2) did you ever get one of those ink cartridges that blew up on you and the money?? 3) what made you want to do the technique you used and not try to break into the bank and make a small fortune at one time and not have to do it again? 4) you said you met other bank robbers in prison, did any offer to do a job with you? Did any share advice or how they did it?

How I see it the "big dirty" would be tougher to execute but anyone that is convinced they can pull it off and is patient enough to study, watch, and learn the bank routine would be able to pull it off. But when you do multiple robberies for smaller amounts of money the risk of getting caught goes up with every bank and robbery.

Sorry for all the questions, stuff like this has always fascinated me.

helloiamCLAY2581 karma

[copied from another reply]

Basic Outline:

  • Stand in line like a regular customer
  • Wait for the next available teller
  • Hand them an envelope and tell them to give me their $50s and $100s (usually this was written on the envelope rather than me verbally saying it)
  • Turning around and walking out like a regular customer

No gun. No threats. No Hollywood drama. No mask. No disguise.


Just a regular customer. In and out in the same amount of time as if I was making a deposit.

No dye packs. Nothing like that.

I never entertained any ideas from guys in prison who wanted to get together on the outside and do more banks. I did just fine by myself when I was still doing it, but I had also decided to quit for a reason.

Most guys in prison all did it the same way. The walked in with a gun and tried to be Bonnie & Clyde. ...which is how they ended up in prison.

hitbyacar11468 karma

I don't get how you didn't get caught. Did they not have cameras in the bank?

helloiamCLAY2298 karma

Of course they had cameras.

But then what? Nobody knew me. What good does it know only having a face and basic description?

PetitP001675 karma

What's the average amount of money you made from a bank ?

helloiamCLAY2285 karma

Not that much, honestly. Probably around $5k per bank.

phildavies1592 karma

Did you carry a weapon? And what was prison like?

helloiamCLAY2840 karma

No. I strapped a hammer to my leg under my pants just below my knee in case I needed to break out of a locked door or something, but I never used a gun or anything like that.

Prison was like church camp without the girls or weird counselors. I played a lot of chess and read a lot of books. I also wrote a lot, of course. Mail is the highlight of anyone's day in prison.

There are some pretty bad dudes there, but nobody really wants any trouble unless you just really fuck them over. There's always trouble if you want it, but it's pretty laid back most of the time. You learn the way of life pretty quick in there if you're smart.

mikey_mouse211488 karma

What made you get into bank robbery and what made you turn yourself in? Edit: word

helloiamCLAY3108 karma

Bank robbery is the real American Dream. We make movies about it, and as long as innocent people aren't hurt or killed, our society loves bank robbers.

Also, it seemed like a worthy challenge. I thought it would be quite an accomplishment if I could solve the puzzle and figure out how to get away with it.

I always figured prison was in the cards for me -- even before I was doing crime -- so it made sense to turn myself in and get it over with, but most of all, I became a father and wanted to just do my time while my son was a baby instead of the cops accidentally figuring out who I was and taking me to jail when my son was older.

MisStitch1422 karma

So do you keep your personal money in a bank? If so - which bank?

helloiamCLAY2030 karma


Actually, yes. And they know about my criminal history because I went to high school with one of the girls that works at my bank.

I keep a minimal amount of money in the bank for obvious reasons -- usually less than a thousand bucks or so. I actually think my account is pretty close to zero for now.

Bank of Texas. :)

laske21318 karma

How much planing did you do before robbing a bank?

helloiamCLAY1956 karma

I researched for about five or six months prior to my first one. I studied mostly the things that people did to get caught, and I just tried to plan around those things. It's hard to know how people get away since those details rarely make it to the news, but studying how people get caught was incredibly helpful in knowing what to avoid.

Once I did my first bank, very little planning was needed for subsequent banks. I never really scoped out a particularly location other than to make sure there was parking that was out of view from the bank.

Pommy3561112 karma

How was the prison experience?

helloiamCLAY2114 karma

Shitty and awesome.

It was like dying, except without the funeral. I was removed from everyone else's life just as much as they were removed from mine. Mail because the only way I connected with my family and friends.

Prison is lonely and depressing, but it's also a great place to really work on yourself if that's what you want to do. Most men and women waste that opportunity. Thankfully, I didn't.

drunkeyjoe865 karma

How was you not found out with CCTV or anything without wearing a mask?

helloiamCLAY1863 karma

Imagine you'd never met me or saw this AMA (or anything about me anywhere).

Now imagine if they sent you the video of the bank jobs I did.

Would you be able to find me?


caross728 karma

Why did you only want $50 and $100s?

helloiamCLAY1493 karma

I don't know about today, but back then all of the marked bills, dye packs, and tracking stuff was in $20s, so I definitely didn't want those. And $1s, $5s, and $10s were such a small denomination that they wouldn't add up to much anyway. It wasn't worth the extra time for them to get everything out of their drawer.

Also, if someone else noticed the teller clearing out their drawer, it might look weird and trigger some sort of response. Getting out a bunch of $50s and $100s, however, seemed to be the quickest way and drew no attention from other tellers.

GentalGenitals669 karma

Could you walk us through the process? How did you choose a certain branch? Was there a specific time of day that was best? Any certain outfit/disguise? What did you say to the teller? Where did you go after your escape?

helloiamCLAY1200 karma

Basic Outline: - Stand in line like a regular customer - Wait for the next available teller -Hand them an envelope and tell them to give me their $50s and $100s (usually this was written on the envelope rather than me verbally saying it) - Turning around and walking out like a regular customer

No gun. No threats. No Hollywood drama. No mask. No disguise.


Just a regular customer. In and out in the same amount of time as if I was making a deposit.

I generally chose a time of day when I thought the cops were on shift change, which was usually around 3pm. Some cities actually publish that for whatever weird reason.

I usually went to Chili's or somewhere to eat and chill out.

LSTNYER619 karma

Friend worked at a bank. She said if they ever get robbed, to look at the robbers shoes. They change their clothes, but hardly ever change shoes. Is that something you did?

helloiamCLAY749 karma

No, I never worried about stuff like that because I was always long gone before the police got there anyway. And nobody ever saw what I drove because I would always park behind another building that you couldn't see from the bank.

gaylis618 karma

What made you want to do this AMA? Is it pride, warning?

helloiamCLAY1368 karma

I wrote a book, and a friend of mine suggested that I do an AMA on here because people apparently like this kind of shit. I wasn't so sure, and I figured I had nothing to lose in coming on here to see what people would like to know.

Ultimately, my purpose is to just tell the better part of my story about how I'm not the guy I used to be and that it's never too late to get your shit together and put your head on straight. I was a real piece of shit once upon a time, but I'm not anymore. I'm very happy with who I've become, and I'll do anything possible to reach those who are walking down the path that I walked down a decade ago.

So if it's just Q&A to a thousand people and I still reach that one person, then that's good with me.

nje29613 karma

Why did you turn yourself in?

helloiamCLAY863 karma

[Copied from another answer of the same question.]

I always figured prison was in the cards for me -- even before I was doing crime -- so it made sense to turn myself in and get it over with, but most of all, I became a father and wanted to just do my time while my son was a baby instead of the cops accidentally figuring out who I was and taking me to jail when my son was older.

tojoso596 karma

If you don't make any threats, you simply ask for money and they give it to you... how serious of a crime is that? How are the laws written that make this kind of thing a crime in the first place? I mean, objectively, what is different between asking a teller to give you $5000, and the boy scout standing at the exit asking you to give them $10?

helloiamCLAY763 karma

My attorney would love you.

mazegeek999542 karma

How many banks did you end up robbing?

helloiamCLAY1179 karma

I eventually stopped counting. I originally fessed up to one bank, but they didn't believe me, so I gave them two more.

I did time for those three.

that_blind_panda540 karma

Do all bank robbers do it for the challenge like you did? I've always wondered why after they get away with a successful heist they continue and always get caught.

helloiamCLAY1076 karma

I think most first-timers do it out of desperation for their own personal financial problems, but career bank robbers -- in my opinion -- do it for the rush or the thrill rather than financial reasons.

Doing one successful heist just makes you feel that much more confident, and eventually people let their guards down and stop being careful like they were in their earliest crimes. For me, I treated every single one as the most important thing in my life, and I went to great lengths to make sure I didn't let myself get into a position to be caught.

Shfydgi516 karma

When you were robbing a bank was it intense or were you calm the entire time?

helloiamCLAY1441 karma

I was calm and controlled, but it was incredibly intense at the same time.

It's like having sex while taking the SATs. You have to focus on both 100% even though that's not totally possible, and that's why it's so rewarding when it works.

betterusername494 karma

Thanks for doing this, a couple questions for you. Here's the part I don't understand: all the banks that I go to have a camera at the teller pointed right at the customers face. Was something like this not in place at the time?

Additionally, did the tellers never put dye packets in with the money?

Last question: what about your getaway was different? In some of your answers you say you planned the getaway and not getting caught very thoroughly and you focus on the actual robbery itself in other answers, but not what happened once you walked out.

helloiamCLAY834 karma

If all you have is a picture or video of someone, that's not really useful. As long as I didn't make it to the news, I was good to go. And nothing I did was newsworthy because nobody got hurt and I didn't make a scene.

No dye packs or anything like that.

Getaway was crucial. I only robbed banks that were in parking lots or something like that with other businesses around. I parked my truck out of view from the bank so nobody could see what I was getting into.

salkhokhar413 karma

Was it just for the money or something more than that?

helloiamCLAY807 karma

It was for everything but the money. It was fun, exciting, and addictive.

ungh01322 karma

On a scale from 1-10, how fun was it? Scary?

helloiamCLAY741 karma

I don't think I would describe it as fun. It's kind of like sex. Everyone will use a different adjective to describe it, but none of them are quite accurate. It's just...aahhhhh. Ya know?

It was scary the first time I ever went to do it, and I chickened out. I sat in my truck in the parking lot beforehand but couldn't calm down, so I went home and came back the next day. Except for that one day when I backed out, I never experienced fear.

Ninja_Kabuto313 karma

What's the life lesson you can give me?

helloiamCLAY757 karma

Without knowing about your life, I don't know what lesson might be applicable for you.

I think generally, it's important to embrace the shit you've done wrong and be accountable for the things you can change in your own life. I'm a big fan of just stepping up and admitting where I was at fault, and I take a lot of pride in accepting responsibility for the things I've done.

radome9286 karma

What is your advice to a young man or woman looking to get his our her bank robbing career going?

helloiamCLAY590 karma

To not do it.

The majority of bank robberies are solved because people don't know how to not get caught. It's very hard to get away with, and I don't recommend it to anyone.

It's exciting at first, and it's even addicting. But like any addiction, you always want more until you realize that more is never enough and you're left feeling quit empty inside.

A serious answer to a (probably) funny question, but that's what comes to mind for me when I read it.

abuden251 karma

Have you hurt or killed anybody during a robbery?

helloiamCLAY430 karma

No and no. I'm sure I scared a few people just by the nature of what was going on, but I never assaulted anyone.

flare2000x187 karma

How was it the first time? It imagine it would be pretty scary.

How did the police react when you turned yourself in?

helloiamCLAY514 karma

It was scary the first time I tried, but I left and didn't do it. I returned the next day and wasn't scared. It's not really something you can do if you're afraid. Fear gets in the way of clear thinking.

The police were very professional. They sent the SWAT team to the hotel where I told them to come get me, so that was pretty shit-your-pants scary, but they didn't fuck me up or anything. Once I was cuffed and cleared and all that crap, they all talked to me like I was a rock star or something. It was really strange. They asked "why" and all that stuff, but it wasn't like the cop style of "why." It was more like a fascinated curiosity.

mt_winston49 karma

What's your favourite pastime?

helloiamCLAY263 karma

Eating at Chipotle.

f6fhelldweller12 karma

What city's did you rob them in?

helloiamCLAY28 karma

Mostly in and around Texas -- Rockwall, Garland, and Allen, to name a few.

dolphins_unleashed76 karma

Dude. I'm gonna yell really loudly. Tell me if you're close enough that you hear it.

helloiamCLAY16 karma

If I had a dollar...

Potethode1232 karma

What were the steps you went through when robbing banks?

helloiamCLAY6 karma

Basic Outline:

  • Stand in line like a regular customer
  • Wait for the next available teller
  • Hand them an envelope and tell them to give me their $50s and $100s (usually this was written on the envelope rather than me verbally saying it)
  • Turning around and walking out like a regular customer

No gun. No threats. No Hollywood drama. No mask. No disguise.


Just a regular customer. In and out in the same amount of time as if I was making a deposit.

CrazyFrogSY32 karma

Is there any place one could learn this art?

helloiamCLAY7 karma

I think it would be dishonest for me to pretend that it's just something that anyone can learn and do. It's like music, writing, or any other art. Some people have an innate ability to do it naturally, and some have to work quite a bit harder to get it. Other people, meanwhile, will never quite understand or be able to do it.

For me, it was combination of imagination and research.

cartere2 karma

How much money did you net on average per heist? Also ever scared of dye packs or gps tracking devices?

helloiamCLAY9 karma

About $5k per bank, probably.

And no, most of those things are in $20s, which I specifically did not want anyway, so no biggie there.

flowsika1 karma

Retired??? Oh then you should be old are you

helloiamCLAY1 karma