I did the retired bank robber AMA two years ago today and ended up answering questions for nearly six months until the thread was finally archived.

At the time, I was in the middle of trying to fund a book I was writing and redditors contributed about 10% of that. I’m not trying to sell the book, and I’m not even going to tell you where it is sold. That’s not why I’m here.

The book is free to redditors: iPhone/Nook, Kindle, PDF.

So ask me anything about the bank stuff, prison, the first AMA, foosball, my fifth grade teacher, chess, not being able to get a job, being debt-free, The Dukes of Hazzard, autism, the Enneagram, music, my first year in the ninth grade, my second year in the ninth grade, my third year in the ninth grade, or anything else.

Proof and Proof

Edit: It's been four hours, and I need to get outta here to go to my nephew's baseball game. Keep asking, and I'll answer 100% of these when I get home tonight.

Edit 2: Finally home and about to answer the rest of what I can. It's just after 3:00AM here in Dallas. If I don't finish tonight, I'll come back tomorrow.

Edit 2b: I just got an email from Dropbox saying my links were suspended for too many downloads, and I don't know how else to upload them. Can anybody help?

Edit 3: Dropbox crapped out on me, so I switched to Google Drive. Links above to the free downloads are good again.

Edit 4: It's just after 8:00AM, and I can't stay awake any longer. I'll be back later today to answer the rest.

Edit 5: Answering more now.

Final Edit: Thanks again for being so cool and open-minded. I learned by accident two years ago that reddit is a cool place to have some funky conversations. I'll continue to scroll through the thread and answer questions in the days/weeks/months to come. As you can see, it's a pretty busy thread, so I might miss a few. Feel free to call my attention to one I might have missed or seem to be avoiding (because I promise I'm not doing so on purpose).

Technology is a trip.

Comments: 4006 • Responses: 70  • Date: 

RabidRoosters5121 karma

What's the most cash you ever got from a single robbery?

helloiamCLAY5672 karma

Not a lot. The most I got from a single robbery was maybe $7k.

diffcalculus2702 karma

Too bad you didn't get any gold, like /u/RabidRoosters is going to get in a few minutes


To the downvoters: It was small humor before I gilded someone. Geez people, relax.

RabidRoosters1520 karma

Thanks dude, you took my gold virginity! I'll remember to pay it forward! Now I just have to figure out what to do with it.

cleverness_eluded1437 karma

/u/RabidRoosters: put your hands in the air and hand over your gold! And don't try any funny business!

helloiamCLAY973 karma

Username checks out. :)

kaoru04253674 karma

My uncle committed armed robbery without a mask or gloves, how dumb do you think he is?

Edit: gotta learn how to type

helloiamCLAY5830 karma

I did the same thing, and I think what I did was pretty dumb. So by the transitive properties of equality, I have to say that I think your uncle is pretty dumb.

(FWIW, I'd also think the same if he had worn a mask and/or gloves, too).

Mongoosemancer3229 karma

Were you ever paranoid that you'd received bait money or that somebody saw you get into your vehicle, or were you really that calm? I don't have the bone in my body that would allow me to do something like rob a bank, but if I did I would imagine id be super paranoid about trying to deposit the money.

helloiamCLAY3443 karma

No. I asked for $50s and $100s only. Everything I'd understood about bait money was that they only came in $20s, so nothing to worry about there if you specifically demand the other non-$20 denominations.

And I wasn't worried anyone would see me getting into my vehicle because I parked out of view (i.e., on the other side of another building).

GlennBecksOpinion2570 karma

How much thought and planning did you put into it beforehand? Did you have a clean getaway car, pre selected route, etc? Did you scout banks and pick the best times? Or did you just decide to up and hit one?

helloiamCLAY4054 karma

I put a lot of thought and planning into the first one. I probably spent five months obsessing over all of the details, possibilities, etc. Once I got the nerve to finally give it a go and everything worked as planned, it was pretty much copy-and-paste from then on.

I didn't scout banks, per se, but I did have an idea of what I was looking for. I didn't want to hit a stand alone bank. I wanted to be able to park my vehicle within walking distance yet out of sight from the bank (i.e., on the other side of an adjacent building).

As for the best times, I usually opted for some time around 3pm since I figured that's when shift-change would likely be for the local police.

GlennBecksOpinion1429 karma

Thank you for the answers! Did you have a system set up to clean your money afterwards? And what did you do with it if you don't mind me asking? Just rent and stuff or more for pleasure? Also, I love the Duke's of Hazzard TV show!

helloiamCLAY3748 karma

I bought a car wash. :)

Edit: Kidding. I used it for pleasure via giving it away. And not in the "ah, so generous" kind of way. I just enjoyed the feeling I got from being able to give to those who needed it more than I did. It was a weird form of selfishness, but it was definitely selfishness.

GlennBecksOpinion707 karma

Haha clean your cars while cleaning your money! That's very RobinHood-ish! We had a debate in ethics class about the morality of giving to charity for the pleasure one received from giving and whether or not it's selfish. The general consensus was that even tho it may not be selfish to some it's still a good thing to do. Thanks for doing the AMA it's very interesting

helloiamCLAY2239 karma

The car wash bit was a joke I stole from the first AMA. :)

I'd love to sit in on a debate like that in class, however. I don't believe altruism is real, and I believe most people are generally selfish. I think Robinhood's intent were so much different than mine, so I usually cringe at the comparison.

Let me frame it this way...

I wasn't doing bad in the name of good. I was just doing bad and then had money left over because of it. The money was a byproduct of bad, and there were no good intentions up to the point that I had the money. But then, I had money and wanted to serve my ego yet again, so I gave it away and enjoyed the wow, you're so generous and helpful in a selfish way.

Unfortunately, that is a more accurate depiction.

skrimpstaxx254 karma

Was the car wash joke from the first AmA a reference to breaking bad? Im just curious

helloiamCLAY436 karma


And I hadn't seen it yet, so it totally whooshed over my head.

GlennBecksOpinion2 karma

Well that was the spirit of the debate in essence. Do the intentions of the donation make a difference when the outcome is the same? I don't really believe so. But either way you decided to do bad, and an outcome of those actions were some good. So you may consider it feeding the ego but there was still a position outcome. Plus the only guys you really robbed were the insurance people, and really who likes those guys?

helloiamCLAY12 karma

Do the intentions of the donation make a difference when the outcome is the same?

I think the intentions are the root of it all.

An extreme example: I shoot you in the head, and you die.

Without knowing my intentions, how do you determine if I did good or bad?

GlennBecksOpinion5 karma

I guess that's where we differ. Ends justify the means sort of thing I guess. I would put murder in the bad category unless it was to do tremendous good or prevent further bad. But back to intentions, you can never say for sure what someone else intentions are for doing something, even if they tell you. They could lie or whatever. The only way to know would be to read a mind. So the only metric we can measure off is the outcome. It's all situational really.

helloiamCLAY9 karma

I would put murder in the bad category unless it was to do tremendous good or prevent further bad.

That was my point. It might not be murder. Without knowing the intention, it's hard to make a decision on whether it was good or bad.

And I definitely agree that we can't know anyone's intentions for certain. We can only guess. My opinion is just that people serve themselves first before others. I fully accept that I might be wrong, but that's just where my belief is at the moment.

A simpler example: I would die for my kids. Like, I would actually put myself between a bullet and either on of my sons. Some would put that in the category of sacrifice or some other relative of altruism. But the reality is that the pain of watching my son die would presumably be greater than the pain of dying myself, so I'd pick the lesser of the pains.

That's what makes the conversation so fun. It's really just a philosophical debate, and there is no real truth. It's just a matter of what you believe.

chrisk36562 karma

You'd be an interesting contribution to the age old psychological debate of whether or not true altruism exists!!

helloiamCLAY134 karma

Funny, I just mentioned in another comment that I don't believe there is such a thing. You'd have to be a robot to ever have pure altruism as a motive to anything.

And I'm totally up for anyone posing a scenario where that point can't be shown.

DoctorBadger1012337 karma

I see that bank robbers don't usually just rob one bank and be done with it. Why is that the case? For something that from the outsiders perspective seems such an impossible task to get away with, why would you or any other bank robber do it multiple times after getting away with it once? Seems to me like the equivalent of betting it all on black, winning a huge jackpot and attempting to bet it all again.

helloiamCLAY3329 karma

Hmm, interesting things to think about.

For the most part, I think bad decisions have a certain inertia (i.e., they just naturally continue until acted on by an outside force).

I can't speak for all criminals, but I had no plans to ever do more than one. But when I did the one, I wanted to do it again. I don't know. I wish I could explain it. I'd volunteer to be a part of any study to figure out why people do dumb shit once and then twice and then again and again until they go to prison or die.

As for bank robbery seeming like an impossible task to get away with, I'd guess that most of your perspective is shaped by things that aren't totally true but are common public perception. For example, people think that (1) this is a big deal to banks and (2) police are good at solving crimes. No disrespect to law enforcement, but it's just really hard to solve so many crimes. And anyone—with a little thought and few morals—can commit this particular crime without getting caught.

I appreciate the gambling analogy you mention at the end of your question. You'd think that would add some weight to the "it doesn't make sense" category. But then we have the reality of Las Vegas to show that people just really love—for better or worse—the rush of a good gamble.

tennmyc21760 karma

The studies on this are pretty interesting. I was part of a huge research study on crime in Chicago. I worked with some kids who were pretty mixed up in gangs, so they studied a program I was running to look at effective interventions. Turns out, the most effective intervention is providing jobs (go figure!).

Anyway, what the research suggests is there is absolutely some inertia. You do something bad, you profit, you continue to do bad things due to the profit being larger than you'll find elsewhere, you get caught, go to jail/prison, come out and now are even less employable, so you continue to commit crimes for profit, and on the cycle goes. However, once you hit somewhere around 40 (in our study the age was 42), you just sort of age out of being a criminal. It's part of the reason 3 strikes laws and all that are asinine for nonviolent criminals. Harold Pollack was the lead researcher on the project, so dig around and you'll probably find it.

Your circumstances seem different, so that research may not be applicable to your specific circumstances. Curious though, if you could connect with a group of young folks who were starting down this path, what would your message be to them? I think it's really hard to balance the "crime is wrong" narrative with the circumstances the young folks in this position are often facing.

helloiamCLAY2933 karma

Curious though, if you could connect with a group of young folks who were starting down this path, what would your message be to them?

I do have this opportunity quite often, and I take full advantage of it. The message is simple: "You are in control of your choices."

I've sat in a room with a couple dozen of the baddest ass teenagers you'll ever find, and the message is the same. You can't control your circumstances. You can't control your piece of shit dad or that teacher who treated you bad. You can't control your brothers or the police. You can't control the government. You can't control being a race that people might not like, and you can't control things that happen to you. You can only control how you respond to them.

With at-risk teens in particular, I think it's important to give them that freedom to acknowledge that they had bad things happen in their life that wasn't their fault. I was one of those kids myself. But when I was in prison, I couldn't blame my dad for my crime. I did the crime, not my dad. I can blame my dad for a lotttttt of shit, by my crime was my choice.

I think the "crime is wrong" narrative is a waste. Everybody already knows crime is wrong. Some of us just don't care. So my attitude in those places is fuck that conversation. I want to talk about you, your life, your choices. That's what matters.

DoctorBadger101333 karma

Thank you so much for the reply! You have a very reasonable and humbled answer. I'm actually a psychologist (it almost appears as if you guessed that) and one of my favorite subjects in the field is the criminal mind. The criminal mind really doesn't make much sense from a psychological standpoint of what "healthy" is, but it's also seeming to exist in a way that the average mind does not. They think in ways that aren't average, for better or worse. It's incredibly fascinating, like trying to solve a Rubik's cube or something.

If you care to answer, was there some moment where you realized that banks aren't as impossible to rob as the average person thinks? Or finding out that police aren't particularly good at solving bank robberies? That seems to be a crucial turning point...a sorta "A-haaa!" moment

helloiamCLAY711 karma

was there some moment where you realized that banks aren't as impossible to rob as the average person thinks?

My stepmother was a teller most of my childhood, so I'd heard a few times about how robberies went down and what they were supposed to do. It wasn't something that was specifically talked about, per se, but it was one of those things I just picked up somewhere along the way and understood as common knowledge by the time I was an adult.

And yeah, people who study people for a living kind of stick out in a place like reddit. Seems like most of the crowd here is either dick butts or thinking types.

Happy to chat any time. I'm easy to find.

DoctorBadger101219 karma

Speaking of the inertia thing reminds me of the so called phases that serial killers go through. Specifically, that after the crime has happened there is a sense of relief that eventually builds into a desire to do it again. You said that you did this mostly for the adrenaline aspect of it, did you ever have the relief feeling after robbing a bank and then have a point afterwards where you get depressed and start craving the adrenaline rush again? For serial killers, this craving can be so powerful that there is hardly anything that can stop it from happening again.

By the way, I am in no way equating you to a serial killer. It just seems that this rush of adrenaline from a crime is very similar to theirs and that rush has been extensively studied specifically for killers and hardly anyone else beyond addicts.

helloiamCLAY341 karma

I think the mental glitch is probably the same, regardless of the crime, so I understand where you're coming from with the serial killer analogy.

The simple answer is no, I never felt a relief. It was more similar to the kind of feeling you get when you win a competition of some sort. It's just a good feeling. And you celebrate for a while, sure, but then you eventually go back to competing because that's just what you enjoy (if you're a competitor).

Lastsurvivor182041 karma

What was your process?

helloiamCLAY5800 karma

  • Walked in.
  • Stood in line.
  • Waiting for the next available teller.
  • Handed them a note asking for their money.
  • Turned around and left.

littleanxiety768 karma

This sounds familiar - was it you on the Criminal podcast? I loved that episode.

helloiamCLAY1971 karma

Unfortunately yes, that was me.

Glad you enjoyed it, but that podcast is the reason I'll never do another interview that isn't live. I'd give anything to get my hands on the unedited audio from our interview/conversation and re-release it somehow.

littleanxiety1009 karma

Huh, that's so interesting. Thanks for clarifying - I forget to listen with a critical ear sometimes. Well - here's your chance, set the record straight. What was misrepresented/what do you wish had been done differently?

helloiamCLAY2039 karma

It's been a long time since I listened and my anger has subsided considerably. The simplest example that comes to mind is the part where she (as a narrator, not as someone talking to me) poses the question about whether or not I was a narcissist.

In our conversation (which was just the two of us chatting at my kitchen table), I was talking fairly openly about how much of a piece of shit I was once upon a time. When edited, she makes it sound like she'd wondered something and then asked about it. In reality, I was just blathering on and on about it on my own.

I should clarify that nothing she said was overtly false. She didn't splice my words to create sentences that I never said. Nothing like that. It was just...I dunno, kinda slimy.

I knew the episode wasn't going to be fun to listen to when I realized they'd uploaded it without letting me hear it first. In our initial conversation on the phone, she told me they'd send it to me first. She's also said in live shows that they always do that. With me, however, they just uploaded it. No contact since.

I'll give it a listen tonight when I get home and am happy to give more thorough explanations, examples, whatever. I just know that being on that podcast is one of very few actual regrets in my life.

littleanxiety596 karma

I might give it a re-listen as well, more critically - thanks for this response. Just to let you know, in case the unbiased opinion of a complete stranger makes you feel any better, I didn't think you came off badly or narcissistic or anything. You seemed candid and genuine and decent and it was pretty endearing. Also I sort of love the idea of you having robbed banks, been in prison, etc etc, and regretting nothing apart from this one interview. That makes them REAL slimy.

helloiamCLAY2026 karma

Thank you. I've gotten mostly positive responses from it, to be fair. And I know that they're just trying to make an entertaining show for people, so I guess it's nothing personal.

If I'm being totally honest, I guess I'm mostly ashamed or embarrassed that I feel like someone else got the best of me. It's business to them, but I invited them into my home and to a family cookout, so it was more of a friendly thing for me.

But ya know, there's an old saying in Tennessee—I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee—that says, "Fool me once, shame on...shame on you. Fool me...can't get fooled again."

Zoetekauw37 karma

How is that enough for them to give you the money? It would seem you present no threat whatsoever.

helloiamCLAY110 karma

No threat required. They follow instructions.

InvisibleUndead1248 karma

What drove you to start robbing banks?

helloiamCLAY2280 karma

I wish I had something more legitimate to blame like addiction or desperate financial circumstances or anything else. Unfortunate truth is it just seemed like it would be exciting, and I enjoyed the thought of trying to get away with something like that. I didn't have very many healthy avenues to pursue excitement, adrenaline, etc.

prettyunicornpeni1099 karma

Are you my ex? I dated a guy in High School who ended up getting busted after robbing several banks just the way you did, years back. He just did it for the shits and giggles. Visited him when he was locked up and he just made jokes about it the whole damn time. I wanted to strangle him!

helloiamCLAY2355 karma


StaySeatedPlease1148 karma

Was your wife or family aware that you were robbing banks? Was this a dirty secret?

helloiamCLAY2141 karma

I didn't tell my wife or my best friend or anyone. I didn't want to burden either of them with that. But that's not the real reason I didn't tell them. I just know that your chances of getting caught skyrocket when you start blathering on about it to others.

I didn't feel like it was a dirty secret either. It was just one of those things that I did every now and then. I'm a private person, so it didn't bother me keeping it to myself.

maxresdefault10807 karma

This'll probably get buried but there was a guy on 4chan who took inspiration from your last AMA, tried to rob a bank, and got busted. He live posted the whole thing on 4chan, which I'm sure was a contributing factor to his failure. I'll try to dig up some links. What advice would you have for him when he gets out?

Found it.


He seems to imply in another post that's not screencapped that the "guy from reddit" is you. Describes your situation, redditor who did an AMA, walked up and handed a note, made it sound so easy. Date also lines up with your first AMA. Zoom in on his note, he even specified he wants it in 50s and 100s, probably after reading your suggestion.

helloiamCLAY289 karma

What advice would you have for him when he gets out?

I'm not much for general advice to folks I don't know, but the best I could give anyone in his situation is to prepare for the free world while you're still locked up. You can't just get out of prison and kick it for a few days before trying to find a job and get your shit together. You have to have a plan in place before you get out.

I don't know. Find him and send him my info. Seems like the kind of guy who could use some positive influence in his life.

andydupree799 karma

I’ve always wondered what is going through the mind of a robber, especially someone who robs banks. Does a certain amount of adrenaline take over just to follow through with the robbery itself? I’m sure all kinds of what-if scenarios could paralyze someone from attempting it in the first place.

Have you seen the movie Hell or High Water? They were robbing small banks but it felt like they portrayed what that’s like in a realistic manner.

helloiamCLAY939 karma

Nothing was really going through my mind at all during the process. Intellectually, I definitely knew what I was doing. But otherwise, I just tried to remain in the mindset that I was there to do a thing and the bank tellers were also there to do a thing. I tried to avoid thinking of myself as a criminal doing bad things. I didn't want the anxiety that came with that.

And sorry, but no I haven't seen that movie. I hardly watch movies at all, much less suspense movies. I like movies like Office Space and Liar, Liar.

JamesAlonso294 karma

Man I love me some office space or liar liar. ITS THE CLAWWWWWWWW

helloiamCLAY421 karma

I'm Jose Canseco!


JamesAlonso164 karma

I remember u saying in your previous AMA you turned yourself in to start a family. How are the kids?

helloiamCLAY1075 karma

Great. One is playing NBA 2k17 at the moment. He's pretty good, but he can't quite hang with me yet. He always picks the Warriors and just tries to rain 3's on my head, so I pick someone like the Clippers and just big-man the shit out of him. If/when he learns how to move the ball around for 20 seconds or so instead of insta-shooting, I'll be screwed because I don't know a lot about video games anymore. But for the time being, I'm God.

My other kid is trampolining right now, and I don't even compete with him. I can't hang. That shit is nowhere near as fun as it used to be.

Dad life is pretty cool.

rustang217 karma

Dude.. point break??

helloiamCLAY56 karma

I saw the first one when I was a kid and liked it. I need to check out the new one, but I still haven't.

I'm pretty excited about Cars 3 next Friday though.

Rolling_on_the_river753 karma

If you'd be able to tell your 10 year old self one thing, what line of crime would you recommend him?

helloiamCLAY1910 karma

My 10 y/o self was trying to cope with his parents divorcing and not understanding how to fit in at school. He wouldn't have listened to a damn thing I said anyway and probably would have done the exact opposite anyway.

More than anything, I think I'd just tell him to hang in there and things won't be bad forever. I'd tell him that his parents still loved him even if they didn't always know how to show it, and I'd challenge him to actually try to appreciate school instead of trying to make it hell on every teacher in his path.

10 y/o kids don't have a fucking clue in life and are in that really awkward phase of too young to care for themselves and too old to have everything done for them.

I'd probably tell him to become a hacker.

lanadoomis731 karma

What's your life like now?

helloiamCLAY1402 karma

Pretty normal, for the most part. I have two sons that I raise together with their mother (my ex-wife). I spent a lot of time during 2012-2014 in the oil fields working my life away to try and get out of debt, but once that was all said and done, I started spending a lot more time at home with my boys.

I travel a little here and there to do some speaking engagements, and I also love to travel for foosball tournaments. I also play foosball locally twice a week. Other than that, I have a typically quiet life.

TheLeopardColony556 karma

If you drop an object into the goal of a foosball table (let's say a cell phone) and you can't get it out by hand is there any way to remove it without somehow destroying the table?

helloiamCLAY552 karma

Depending on which type of table you're talking about, it could be as simple as opening up the table and getting it out with your hand. Most coin-operated tables that you find in bars/pubs/whatever have a split-cabinet design so the owner can open it up and remove the coin box.

If you're talking about a home model that doesn't have a split-cabinet design, it's going to probably be a pain in the ass.

ldyte1535 karma

How many years of your sentence did you actually serve? I see in your attached proof the sentence date is 2008 for 20 years, so release 2028, but as far as I am aware it is 2017.

helloiamCLAY889 karma

My sentence was 36 months. I served 39 months because I didn't get credit for all of my county time.

I think you misread the proof. The crime carries up to 20 years, but that wasn't my sentence.

ldyte1204 karma

Ah I see. What is county time? I'm from the UK, is that like what we call community service or similar?

Yes I believe I did, my bad, does that mean you didn't get a fine at all or just didn't get the full fine of $250,000?

helloiamCLAY468 karma

In the States, we have local, state, and federal levels.

When you are arrested and charged by the police for something, you are usually taken to the county jail (local level). The county jail is where you sit while you go through the legal proceedings of a criminal case.

After the court process is complete (which can take months and sometimes years), you are either released (i.e., if found not guilty) or found guilty and sent to prison. Prison is where you actually serve your sentence, but you typically get credit for the time you spend in the county jail.

In my case, I didn't get credit for all of the time I spent in county jail. So instead of serving three years, I served three years, three months, and 10 days.

Hope that makes sense. I know our terms are a bit different, but that's my best attempt at a brief ELI5.

jocq139 karma

I didn't get credit for all of the time I spent in county jail

Was that part of a plea agreement? I should probably know this but perhaps feds never count county time. I assume your case was federal.

I spent a good chunk of time in our state's max (one level under the supermax). One of my better acquaintances was on the tail end of his federal sentence for bank robbery. He also did it basically for the excitement. He got nailed with a 20 year sentence (serve 85%). He had a box of sugar he claimed was a bomb so they treated it as though it was actually a weapon with regards to sentence.

helloiamCLAY176 karma

I explained it a bit better here, I think.

Bummer about your buddy. Most folks don't realize you don't have to actually be armed to be treated as an armed robber. Even the mere mention of a weapon is treated as armed robbery in court.

Onlydp43 karma

What was your fine, and how did they get the money? Did they seize any assets or just garnish your jail earnings (if you had a job)?

helloiamCLAY105 karma

I didn't make any money in prison. When I got out, I had restitution of $150/mo until the balance was paid in full. I paid it off early.

an0rexorcist31 karma

Why didn't you get your time in county counted?

helloiamCLAY81 karma

A bunch of legal mumbo jumbo that I never fully understood (and didn't really care about because I was expecting so much more time anyway).

Basically, I was arrested and put in Collin County's jail for a while until the feds picked up the charges. The county never indicted me because the feds were supposed to. But the feds were dragging their feet and Collin County let me out on a personal recognizance bond (because they knew I had warrants in another county for the same thing).

So when I was released from Collin County, the second county (Rockwall) came and got me. I was in Rockwall County's jail for three months, 10 days. While I was there, the feds indicted me, and I went to their detention center from Rockwall.

When it was all said and done, Collin County still indicted me and ultimately sentenced me to three years (which ran concurrently with my federal time). Rockwall dropped the indictment when the feds picked it up, so I sat for three months and 10 days on a charge that no longer existed.

So at the end of the day, I served my 36 months. It just so happened I had the period in the middle that didn't count (i.e., the Rockwall County time).

Sleepless_Devil481 karma

How do you think the world of robbing banks has changed since you were doing it? While the cameras are slightly better than they used to be, it seems that very few bank robbers actually get caught barring ridiculous stupidity. Even those whose faces are caught on camera walk out of the bank with typically a couple grand and no consequences thereafter.

Considering it is a federal offense, I am curious as to how seriously you believe law enforcement takes some of these robberies, given how small the quantity of money is and nobody being harmed in the process. It seems as though, given the lack of news coverage on such small time jobs and the lack of anyone ever being caught, that someone could easily rob a bank or two and continue life and working their 9-5 job as though nothing ever happened

helloiamCLAY818 karma

This is a fun conversation to have, and I actually will have a really cool opportunity to go to an event later this year and talk with banking professionals about it. I'm excited.

Cameras are a shit ton better today than they were in 2006. Plus, we have social media in a way that only existed in our worst nightmares back then. It's a lot different these days. With that said, it's still just not really that big of a priority for banks to catch robbers. They're not really losing that much money to robberies.

If you do it how I was doing it, you're not going to really raise any eyebrows. On the other hand, if you're going in guns blazing and wrecking shop, they're going to put a lot more of their resources into catching you...

...because if you hurt a customer during a robbery, that's going to cost WAY more money than a few thousand dollars from Teller B.

And I agree with your last sentence.

Zoetekauw241 karma

Why do you reckon bank robbery isn't more common if indeed it is this easy even today?

helloiamCLAY474 karma

I think it's a lot more common than people realize. But there are stories/studies talking about the gradual decline over recent years, and my best guess is that it's just easier to do other forms of the same thing via identity theft and other digital crimes.

StaySeatedPlease425 karma

Do you think you'll ever rob a bank again? If not, why not?

helloiamCLAY1192 karma

First of all, I am standing up while typing this and there's nothing you can do to stop me.

Nah, I can't imagine ever wanting to do that shit again. I like my life, and I'm happy. That's something I never had for the first few decades of my life. There's just no appeal to do certain things as you get older and for me, this falls into that category.

MrFastZombie354 karma

Is it a lot harder to get a job after robbing banks?

helloiamCLAY818 karma

Damn right, it is.

And not just because of the crime, but just because of being a felon in general. Although it's technically illegal to discriminate based on that, companies aren't so quick to hire an ex-con.

Thankfully, it's still America and there's always opportunity if you try hard enough. No complaints from me.

thousandfold1000335 karma

Would you want your experiences to be made in to a movie?

helloiamCLAY856 karma

So my first AMA pretty much went viral and a gazillion people reached out to me for this very thing. I ended up meeting a really great producer who is doing a documentary type film, and I can't wait to see what he does with it. I don't know that I'm at liberty to say much about it, but he is awesome and I'm glad I met him. Hopefully will have some news on that soon.

Blucatt321 karma

How did it feel always living on the edge like that? Always looking over your shoulder and trying not to get arrested?

helloiamCLAY480 karma

I never really felt like I was looking over my shoulder. That feeling usually only lasted an hour or two after the robbery, but it was pretty...I dunno...whatever a drug does to you is what it did to me. But as with drugs, it wears of more quickly each time as you build tolerance to it.

I didn't really feel like I was living on the edge. It was exciting, but it never lasted.

Ultimatenab300 karma

Was any of them an armed robbery? If so why did you choose to take a gun/weapon, was it for show or did you intent to use it if it was needed?

helloiamCLAY580 karma

No weapons. They were "note only" robberies.

iemand615274 karma

I don't get how that works. How could you convince a teller to give you money just by giving them a note? Sorry for my ignorance

helloiamCLAY472 karma

The analogy I usually use is ordering a Big Mac at McDonald's. The cashier doesn't question whether or not you have money. They are just following procedure. When someone orders food, they punch their computer and proceed as trained.

Tellers are trained to follow instructions. If you tell them to give you money, they do it.

ChrisRunsTheWorld264 karma

Your last AMA was referenced recently and I was really intrigued by it. I looked through your post history and sorted by top to see some of the best answers. And I came across this post that was only about a week old at the time:


A lot of people called you out that it was BS. So was it? Did you bamboozle us? I still like you.

helloiamCLAY759 karma

Ah man, I got soooo much shit for that comment.

So the truth is I was at a game where this exact thing happened. The lady looked exactly like that lady—clothes and all—and exactly what I said happened definitely happened.

Problem is, the game I was at was Texas vs Cleveland. That's actually when I realized I fucked up in the thread you linked. I got so defensive because people were calling me a liar, so I actually linked pics from my Facebook page proving that I was actually at that game on that date. Jurickson Profar hit a home run in his first MLB plate appearance that game, and there was an air show featuring the Blue Angels in town, too.

And, of course, someone not-so-politely pointed out that it was an Arizona vs Houston game in the video and not a Texas vs Cleveland game as my pics/vids had shown.


So no, I didn't bamboozle anyone. It was just an honest mistake. But the sadist in me enjoyed watching people get so damn twisted about something so irrelevant, so I never bothered editing and correcting myself.

I'm still an asshole on occasion. My bad. :)

helloiamCLAY75 karma

Your last AMA was referenced recently and I was really intrigued by it.

Any recollection of where/why? I usually hear about it when that happens, but I haven't been on reddit much the last few weeks.

3fjn3t203 karma

Let's cut the shit here and tell us, are there Bank Robber groupies?

helloiamCLAY279 karma

Probably. I don't know. I don't think I'd want anything to do with that crowd.

tomatocheesecat200 karma

Do you consider robbing banks to be morally wrong?

helloiamCLAY601 karma

Yes, it's definitely wrong—morally, legally, and in every other kind of way.

People often give a good Hell yeah! to the idea of stealing from banks since the public perception of banks is that they're the real crooks. But I don't subscribe to that. Banks are businesses, and I was a criminal. Plain and simple.

areyoucallingmealiar195 karma

Did you ever leave a calling card, or take any trivial souvenirs?

helloiamCLAY836 karma

I stuffed a rag into the drain of their sinks and turned on the faucet so the house would flood.

Other than that, no.

Help-meeee178 karma

What was the worst experience you had in prison?

helloiamCLAY423 karma

I had a local radio station's phone number on my approved calling list (i.e., numbers I could call using the phone inside the prison...kinda like a pay phone). When I turned in the paper to have them added, I was open about who they were and how I knew them. I didn't think the number would get approved, but it did. It was a talk radio station.

So I called in one night and was on the air.

The content of my call wasn't a problem, and I wasn't discussing anything I shouldn't have or anything like that. I didn't do anything wrong on the phone call, but the warden of the prison just happened to be listening to that station and lost his shit.

The guard came over and disconnected my call and was yelling about how I wasn't allowed to be talking to a radio station blah blah blah. He wrote me up and I had a hearing to determine punishment. They gave me two "charges"—misusing the phone system and lying on the paper when I turned in my numbers.

Only problem is, I didn't lie when I turned in that paper. And surprise, surprise...the damn paper was nowhere to be found when it came time for me to have my disciplinary hearing. In reality, the guard who approved my numbers didn't actually read through them. He just punched them in and they were added, so it was his fault (and also the reason that paper was nowhere to be found).

So the worst experience I had in prison was the result of that disciplinary action. I lost all privileges (phone, visits, commissary, rec, everything) for the maximum per charge, which was 90 days each.

180 days without any phone or visits is brutal when you have a 17-month old son who is already only able to see you an hour or so every other weekend. That was the only time I ever cried in prison.

Rolling_on_the_river132 karma

How can you not like mustard!?

helloiamCLAY284 karma

I'm about that Professor Plum life.

the_drew124 karma

First off, thanks for the book, secondly, the heist scene in Heat (i.e. Where they're actually in the bank / controlling the staff and punters) felt pretty authentic, was it?

Also, what other films have shown the craft well?

helloiamCLAY337 karma

I've never seen that movie, but generally speaking, Hollywood tends to really get bank robbery wrong. Granted, if they painted a more accurate picture of bank robbery, it would be terribly boring and nothing people would want to pay to see.

Hollywood portrays bank robbery about like the porn industry portrays sex.

Jordaneer123 karma

What drove you to start and what drove you to stop and eventually turn yourself in?

helloiamCLAY295 karma

Answered the first part here.

I stopped because it stopped being fun. My son was born and something just changed inside my head. I wanted to be someone else. It's hard to explain. I'm sure a psychiatrist or some other kind of doctor could give a really solid explanation as to why, but I just had different desires at that point.

And turning myself in seemed like the only logical option. It would put a definitive end to my past and give me a chance to work shit out before my son was too old to really remember much of it.

Verpous120 karma

What are your thoughts on your fifth grade teacher?

helloiamCLAY238 karma

She was terrible.

She's one of the few people I mentioned by name in my book. She was just a terrible, terrible person.

Verpous52 karma

How so? What's your worst memory of her?

helloiamCLAY32 karma

Sorry for the delay. Here is an excerpt from the book:

(Edit for formatting. Hope this is easier on the eyes.)

Mrs. Vasquez was my fifth grade teacher. She was actually one of the few teachers that I would ever describe as mean. I got into trouble with literally every teacher (and probably every substitute teacher) who ever presided over me, but they were never mean to me. I was an obnoxious little twerp who brought out the worst in teachers, but Mrs. Vasquez needed no help from me to reveal her ugly side.

She had a jar, and in that jar were small pieces of paper. On each piece of paper was the name of a student in her class, so each student was represented in that jar. At the beginning of the school year, she explained to us that each week she would have an assistant who would basically be her helper. It was a coveted position because it often involved trips to the copy machine or other special privileges that basically translated to being exempt from whatever classwork the rest of the students were doing. She even had a title for the position: The Apprentice.

With about 25 kids in my class that year, some of the kids could get to be her apprentice twice, but Mrs. Vasquez explained very clearly that no student would have a second term as The Apprentice until each student had enjoyed their first.

Each week in that fifth grade class ended with the declaration of the following week’s apprentice. The incumbent apprentice’s final duty would be to pull a name from the jar to determine who would be the new apprentice when we returned to school the following week. This was the last thing that happened every Friday afternoon before we were dismissed for the weekend, and it never failed to create anticipation and excitement.

It was a big deal!

As the school year went on, it seemed that I would never be chosen. At the Christmas break, there had already been about 18 apprentices, but I was still waiting for my opportunity.

That January, after we came back from Christmas break, Mrs. Vasquez announced that she had misplaced her jar of names, which meant she had also lost track of who had been apprentices and who hadn’t. Her only “fair” solution was to just start over and put everyone’s name back into the jar. Obviously, this meant that there would no longer be a guarantee that everyone would have their chance to be an apprentice before the year was over.

Later in the school year, with only about four weeks remaining, I was the only kid in the class who had not been an apprentice. Even the worst kids in the class were pardoned from their “bad kid” labels for that one week. For those kids, the magic of being her apprentice was that she ignored your past and just allowed you to be her little helper for the week. For those five days, nothing from the past mattered.

I was so looking forward to that.

Then, it happened.

One Friday afternoon, as had been the case with every other Friday afternoon that year, it was time to find out who would be The Apprentice for the following week. With only four weeks left, it seemed to be an even more prestigious position for some reason, and to add to it all, everyone knew that I only had four chances left to have my name pulled from that magical jar.

The apprentice that week was my friend, and with my fifth grade logic, I thought it was likely that he would pull my name. For his final duty as The Apprentice, he reached into the jar and grabbed one of the few remaining pieces of wadded up paper. Mrs. Vasquez always instructed the apprentices to not look at the paper and to just hand it directly to her, so without knowing whose name he had drawn, my friend gave the piece of paper to our teacher.

Just imagine the scene for a moment, a class full of fifth grade kids who are already giddy because it’s Friday afternoon with only about 10 minutes left in the day. On top of that, we’re about to find out who one of the year’s final apprentices will be! While she began to unravel the piece of paper, she dramatically announced, “Next week’s apprentice is…”

Then, without any attempt at disguising her disgust, she said the name on the paper.


The class burst into laughter at my reaction because I was so excited that I just began fist pumping and silently screaming, “Yes! Yes! Yes!”

I wish I could say the story ended there. It would be a nice ending, and it might even leave you smiling as you remember something similar from your own elementary years. Unfortunately, the story continues, and what happened next left me crying and wondering what I had done to deserve to be humiliated so badly in front of all my friends.

“I don’t think so,” she said. “You don’t deserve to be my apprentice.”

She wasn’t joking. She wasn’t smiling. She wasn’t even being nice about it. There was obviously no value in letting me down easily.

All sound left the room except for the slight buzz of the fluorescent lights and the sniffle of that one kid who always had a runny nose.

Some knew she was serious, but the rest of us thought maybe it was just a joke that she was pulling on me. Perhaps, it was her way of “getting me back” for talking in class so much. Does she really have a sense of humor? Does she actually know how to be funny?

Until that point, she had let every student be her apprentice when their name was chosen regardless of their previous behavior. Remember? Even the worst kids in the class were pardoned from their “bad kid” labels.

But when she reached into the jar and pulled out another name, it was official. She wasn’t kidding. She wasn’t being funny. She had no sense of humor, and she was not going to allow me to fill the position that I had so badly wanted to fill all year.

I was defeated, embarrassed, and worst of all…hurt. I just wanted to run home and cry, and that’s exactly what I did as soon as school let out a few minutes later. To make matters worse, she hadn’t even put my name back into the jar. She had just wadded it up and thrown it in the trash right there in front of everyone.

gibbie9997 karma

What was your education level at the time of your crime spree and do you feel anything in your upbringing would have swayed you from NOT robbing banks? I would rather my children not rob banks for fun.

helloiamCLAY123 karma

I graduated high school and never went to college. That was about eight years before the crime stuff.

I think there are lots of things that could have changed my path somewhere along the way, but it's hard to say exactly what they might have been. As a parent (especially knowing my own history), this is something I think about constantly, and I wish I had a better answer for you.

BraatBraat82 karma

Do you feel guilty about how the tellers must have felt being robbed?

helloiamCLAY111 karma

I think about some of the tellers often. I don't really know what I feel about them, but I do hope they don't have any kind of PTSD or other resulting issues. And if they ever wanted to get me in a room with mediators or whatever and give me a piece of their mind or whatever other things they needed to do, I wouldn't be against that.

I guess the answer to your question is no, I don't feel guilty. But I don't feel the opposite of guilty either. I just don't feel a lot on certain topics. I don't know what I would even do with those feelings. I'm open to suggestions.

SamwseTheBrave46 karma

I am an unarmed security guard that worked in a variety of banks to be that first response for when people rob banks. So if you ever seen that commercial where someone robs a bank and everyone turns to the security guard and say, "I'm not a security guard. Im a security monitor", that's me!

My question: when you see a 3rd party officer, is what is your reaction and what do you to get around them? Does it make the robbery and easier.

Because I always said as soon as someone pointed a weapon or threatened my life, I was quiting right there.

helloiamCLAY49 karma

If I saw an officer of any kind, third party or not, there's no way I was sticking around to rob the place. So your presence alone can prevent a certain amount of crimes, I'm sure.

The downside is the people who don't care you're there also do not care if they have to hurt you. At a glance, I think your comment kind of sounds like you're probably in the wrong business. That sounds so stressful.

-interrupted44 karma

What was it specifically about robbing banks that appealed to you? Why not any other type of theft/crime?

helloiamCLAY75 karma

I don't fully know how to answer it. To me, it's like asking someone why they prefer mustard over ketchup. I just don't like mustard, I guess, but I can't explain why. I just don't like how it feels in my mouth. To me, there's a certain icky feeling about selling drugs, stealing cars, robbing convenience stores, or any other crime.

Also, I knew how banks worked. I knew their procedures during a robbery, so I was just more comfortable with the thought of doing that instead.

Jordaneer29 karma

What do you do now?

helloiamCLAY47 karma

Raise my kids, play foosball, and go do speaking engagements every now and then.

tfyuhjnbgf28 karma

Did you target certain companies?

helloiamCLAY52 karma

Not specifically, but I knew that larger chains were less likely (among other things) to have some hero waiting to pounce if you robbed them.

tfyuhjnbgf15 karma

So smaller places like credit unions were more likely to have security?

helloiamCLAY36 karma

I don't know, but I'm guessing that is probably correct. I didn't necessarily know what the smaller places did. I just knew what the big places did.

Slummish28 karma

I think I know you. Did you ever live on the 23rd floor of a building in Austin?

helloiamCLAY69 karma


I don't think I've ever been above the third story of any building in Austin.

thxxx133727 karma

What's your favorite kind of cheese?

helloiamCLAY51 karma

That varies depending on what I'm eating. There aren't many cheeses I don't like (except for weird ones like pepperjack). On chicken tacos, I love colby & monterey jack. On beef tacos, I'd probably go with plain old shredded cheddar. If I'm eating a cheeseburger, I usually get cheddar or American.

If I'm eating Italian food, I'm probably going to just ask for every single cheese they have. Three-cheese lasagna? Yes, please. Five-cheese pizza? Sure thing! I've never been to an Italian restaurant that had any kind of cheese I didn't approve of.

In chess, however, I prefer the King's Gambit when playing white and the Sicilian when playing black.

sevrock10123 karma

When you decided to turn yourself in, how long did you expect your sentence to be?

helloiamCLAY43 karma

I was expecting more like a decade or so. I wasn't really sure, but I definitely expected way more than three years.

ARA-FTW5 karma

How was Dave Ramsey off mic?

Lame question, but honestly just wanted to say thanks for the book and you were definitely the most interesting guest on the show.

helloiamCLAY7 karma

Dave is the coolest dude ever. Seriously. I'll box someone for talking shit about Dave because the dude is just really exactly the same guy off air as he is on air. He ain't just putting on a show. He's the real deal, just another redneck who cares and happens to have a lot of money too.

CondemingSocks4 karma

so you have autism? would you cure it if you could? how did this effect your decision to rob a bank!

helloiamCLAY15 karma

I don't have autism, no. If autism were as openly talked about in the 80s as it is now, I'm sure I'd have been considered on the spectrum, but that's not how they did things in the 80s. They just beat the shit out of you and gave you detentions until you submitted.

My son has autism, and I'd give anything in my power to cure it if I could. Autism is not a good thing, and I hate what it does to people. But autism is something you have, not something you are. So yeah, if I could cure my son, you bet your ass I would. And I don't know many parents who'd prefer their kids be born with autism rather than being a healthy, neurotypical child.

Autism sucks. My son is awesome. But autism just sucks.