Suspected ‘polite robber’ gained infamy as the ‘Transaction Bandit’

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.

13 Replies to "Suspected 'polite robber' gained infamy as the 'Transaction Bandit'"

  • bridge to somewhere February 8, 2011 (11:29 am)

    the former bank robber worked . . . at Starbucks?!

  • Mindy Bowler February 8, 2011 (12:33 pm)

    Greg “the Polite Robber” lived in my brothers basement. My brother and his wife have “nothing” to do with his crimes!!! They just rented a room to the wrong person. They are upstanding religious people, and are devestated by this situation that has come up at their house.
    It is not a “Drug House” it is there Home!
    They were completly unaware of the mans past and also his present actions. Greg even told police swat that they had no involvement or knowledge of his robbery.

  • Mike February 8, 2011 (12:38 pm)

    woah… wait… you can’t collect unemployment if you quit your job unless it’s under very specific hardships the job was causing. I think he owes the State of Washington some money.

  • Carrie P February 8, 2011 (3:29 pm)


    Sorry for your parents and what they’ve been through.

    I do have to say, though, that labeling them as “religious” to show that they’re “upstanding people” may be pointless since religious people do a lot of immoral things. Religious people are no more moral than non-religious people. In fact, I’d bet money that Polite Robber considers himself a religious guy.

  • Carrie P February 8, 2011 (3:34 pm)

    ((Oops, I mean, sorry about your brother and his family, I typed “parents”))

  • Dave G. February 9, 2011 (1:32 am)

    Umm….Carrie P. she wasn’t trying to solve the morality issues between the atheists and the religious. She’s just saying, “Please leave her bro and sis alone.” Sheesh for the love of god that is waaaaay too much. Now just go off in your Subaru and do what you do.

  • athiest subaru driver February 9, 2011 (12:21 pm)

    Mike, unfortunately that is not true. I know some (lazy) people who quit their jobs by choice (that they just didn’t like) and get unemployment from the state. Sad, but true. (Wasn’t sure if you were being sarcastic or not, but had to chime in)

    Dave G, well said.

  • Saul February 9, 2011 (4:07 pm)

    I just want to know: was he a more or less “honest, polite” robber – or was his tale of woe, (that he “had kids to feed”) just some BS he’d made up to make his heist(s) go more smoothly?

    If he lived in someone’s basement, I am guessing he was a LYING, polite, robber, but maybe not; anyone know?


  • Carrie P February 9, 2011 (5:15 pm)

    Oh, Dave G., honey-bunny, I know what she was saying. Not that I’ve seen any examples of anyone on this forum “contacting” or “harassing” her brother/sister…I’m just sayin’ that if she wants to put it out there that they’re good people because they’re religious, I’m gonna say that being religious has nothing to do with it.

    Sorry to not be able to live up to your stereotype–don’t drive a Subaru and I’m not an atheist. But yes, I’ll keep on doin’ what I do, Shnookums

  • Dave G February 9, 2011 (6:32 pm)

    Actually you do live up to the stereotype Carrie. With the passive aggressive response you just put back. You couldn’t just say, ‘yes I suppose you’re right, no decent human would feel the need to respond the way I just did, these people are going through a terrible time and I really didn’t need to bring up some stupid ‘why or why not they are honest’ people so I apologize everyone.” Nope you just had to do the hunny bunny passive aggressive thing. I’ve been living and working in this community here my whole life and I see it every day now. It’s a pandemic of prickism. No decent person whether atheist, religous, straight, gay, black, white, green or purple would feel the need to say what you said to that person. You don’t care that woman was your neighbor, that she was just trying to portray to us that the people were decent, I really doubt she was going through the ins and outs of the reasons why or why not they were decent people. You think you can skate around this life with your smug little tude’ saying and doing what you want, when you want to whom you want regardless of the other’s feelings or situation and I feel good at least speaking up and standing up to you. Also I never said you were an atheist don’t know where you got that one from. And besides, anyone who’s anyone knows it’s Schnookums not Shnookums – sheesh!

  • HunterG February 9, 2011 (9:59 pm)

    Why would you even give that information if you didn’t want to bring attention to it? Its not like her families address was published in the write up. But folks… if you do know where this guy lived don’t bug the people who rented out a room.

    And CarrieP, I agree with you. Religion most often has nothing to do with a person being descent or not. In my own experience I have ran in to more judgmental hateful people who were religious than not, unless you are like them and believe the same thing they do – just sayin’.

  • Carrie P February 11, 2011 (3:33 pm)

    Hmm, so I see my last reply of 2/9 has “disappeared”. So let me recap: Dave G., I never had any cruel intentions towards Mindy or her family with my original post. It’s actually a rather innocuous statement, a thought about an idea, not a personal attack. It was never meant as such. From the content and intensity of your reply, it is obvious that my comment and I, personally, aren’t what you are truly angry about. I am not the monster you portray–I realize you think you know me and what I’m about, but you do not know me, nor do I know you, and telling me that I’m “passive aggressive”, part of the “pandemic of prickism”, that I’ve got a “smug little tude” and assume I drive a subaru is above and beyond what our interaction required.

  • Lola February 18, 2011 (1:20 am)

    Carrie P. I think what Dave G. was just trying to reiterate was that this, “interaction” did not, “require” religion as a backdrop. This is not a forum for religious debate. It is simply one person trying to express that her family should be left alone. Plain and simple.

Sorry, comment time is over.