A Kitsap County man who committed four bank robberies and multiple espresso stand robberies was sentenced last week in U.S. District Court in Tacoma to 13 years in prison.
Michael Wandke, 48, of Seabeck, pleaded guilty in June to two counts of armed bank robbery and two counts of bank robbery for a series of bank robberies in Kingston and Allyn, Wash.
Wandke robbed the Bank of America in Kingston on Dec. 21, 2009, and robbed the Kitsap Bank in Allyn on Feb. 1, 2010, again three weeks later, and a third time in July of that year.
The federal prison term imposed by U.S. District Judge Robert J. Bryan will run concurrent with Wandke’s expected state sentence for a series of espresso stand robberies. In imposing the 156-month sentence, Judge Bryan emphasized the seriousness of the offense and the real danger that people could have suffered serious physical injury or even death. The danger trumped the fact that Wandke had little or no criminal history before this case, Judge Bryan noted.
According to a plea agreement announced last week by U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan, Wandke committed his first bank robbery in December 2009 at the Kingston Bank of America branch by threatening employees with a phony bomb.
Parts used in the fake bomb were later traced to materials found at Wandke’s home, such as a dog training collar.
Wandke made off with just over $4,300 in that heist.
In February 2010, Wandke committed his first robbery at the Allyn branch of Kitsap Bank. He displayed a black-colored handgun in his waistband and demanded money.
Wandke took just over $10,000, but as he fled the bank, witnesses noted a red mist coming from the area where he was holding the money. A teller had inserted a dye pack with the money.
Three weeks later, Wandke robbed the bank again, this time ordering the teller not to give him any dye packs. Wandke forced the bank manager to leave the bank with him while he checked the bag for dye packs.
Wandke continued to threaten the woman as they walked a distance from the bank, prosecutors say. Once satisfied there were no dye packs, the manager was allowed to go back to the bank. Wandke made off with approximately $62,000.
After the first two robberies, Kitsap Bank put in new procedures, requiring customers to be “buzzed in” through the front doors. Four months later, Wandke broke down the front door to rob the bank one more time. He took more than $16,000 in that robbery.
Wandke was arrested on Sept. 28, 2010, after he robbed an espresso stand in Bremerton. A witness noticed a suspicious person running from the espresso stand and noted the license plate number of the truck Wandke was driving. Law enforcement stopped the truck a short time later and identified Wandke as the suspect. A subsequent search of his home turned up items tying him to the series of bank robberies.
In their sentencing memo, prosecutors highlighted the “devastating impact for the tellers who were terrified during the robberies.”
“In one of the robberies, he presented what he said was a bomb, and left it behind when he departed the bank,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in their sentencing memo. “In another, he presented what appeared to be a real handgun, and threatened to shoot or kill those in the bank if he did not get what he wanted. If that terror-inducing conduct were not enough, he also kidnaped the manager at the Allyn bank, forcing her at gunpoint to go with him as he left the bank, and threatened to kill her if he found any dye packs or security devices with the stolen money…
“His victims will have to live with and battle the repercussions for the rest of their lives. The defendant caused enormous mental and emotional harm.”
The case was investigated by the FBI and Kitsap and Mason County Sheriff’s Offices.