WSB policy is usually not to identify crime suspects until they are charged. But there are a few exceptions – same ones we had while in citywide media – including cases in which the person is photographed/videotaped actually committing the crime. So with that said, we are reporting that 65-year-old Gregory Paul Hess is the man arrested in Top Hat and then booked into King County Jail late last night on suspicion of being the so-called “polite” robber who was videotaped (here’s KING5‘s original story) holding up the Roxbury Shell last Saturday morning.
Announcing the arrest on Monday afternoon, King County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Sgt. John Urquhart mentioned that the suspect had been previously convicted of armed robbery. Researching Hess’s background last night and this morning, we discovered that his criminal past brought him media coverage before: In 2003, he was arrested after a string of bank robberies (none in West Seattle) attributed to the “Transaction Bandit.” As was the case in the videotaped Roxbury heist, the robber in those cases waited until the till was open and then changed from customer to robber. Not only that – the “need money” story told by the Roxbury robber echoes the “Transaction Bandit” saga. Charges against Hess were detailed in this 2003 Seattle Times (WSB partner) story, which began:
Gregory Paul Hess hadn’t worked in months, and he had rent to pay and groceries to buy, federal prosecutors say in court documents filed yesterday charging Hess with bank robbery.
The 58-year-old Seattle man had quit his job steaming lattes at a Starbucks in Madison Park before Christmas, and he was sure his unemployment benefits would dry up any day, according to charges filed against Hess in U.S. District Court in Seattle.
According to federal court dockets we reviewed online this morning, Hess struck a plea bargain in 2004, pleading guilty to three of the five counts with which he was charged. He was sentenced to 4 years, 9 months in prison. According to the Bureau of Prisons website, he was released in July 2007. The King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office says he’s due for a bail hearing at 2:30 this afternoon.
3:38 PM UPDATE: Hess’s bail was set this afternoon at $250,000. Prosecutors have until Thursday to file formal charges.