ST. GEORGE – A California woman convicted of robbing four banks in three states, including the U.S. Bank in St. George, was sentenced in federal district court in St. George Tuesday. Sandeep Kaur, 24, of Union City, California, was sentenced to 66 months in federal prison despite a request for a lesser sentence by her attorney, Jay Winward.
Kaur pleaded guilty in January to four felony charges of bank robberies that occurred during the summer of 2014. Kaur’s crime spree began in California and ended after robbing the U.S. Bank on Bluff Street in St. George, and leading officers on a high-speed pursuit into Nevada, where she was arrested.
Winward asked the court for a sentence of 48 months, although the sentencing recommendation range, as stated by the court, is 78-97 months.
Winward told the court that Kaur is young, well-educated, capable of paying restitution, and has no prior criminal history. She was raised in a traditional Indian family and grew up feeling “trapped” and bullied, Winward said. She had run from an arranged marriage, to a boyfriend whom she married. However the relationship turned abusive, Winward said.
After making some money in the stock market, Winward said, Kaur ended up in Las Vegas, acquiring a gambling addiction and becoming indebted to loan sharks.
Winward told the court that Kaur is not a run-of-the-mill criminal, but rather a “good, wholesome person who made some horrible decisions.”
Kaur felt remorse, Winward said, and had been a model prisoner; and she has turned back to her religion. She is willing and capable of paying back the money she stole in the bank robberies, he said, and can become a useful member of society.
Winward also said that even though Kaur threatened violence during the robberies, she is not a violent person and did not have a firearm or explosives during the robberies.
However, the prosecuting attorney Paul Kohler said that during the robberies, the bank tellers did not know Kaur did not have a weapon, and so were afraid for their lives. The tellers were “trapped,” as were the families driving on I-15 during the police chase following the St. George bank robbery, and the officers who responded.
A price needs to be paid by Kaur, Kohler said; she gambled with the safety and well-being of others during her “violent, serial” crime spree.
Before pronouncing the sentence, U.S District Judge Ted Stewart called the case “complex,” citing both the violence of Kaur’s crimes, and her intelligence and opportunities. Kaur graduated from high school at age 15, and from nursing school at 19, he said.
However, the circumstances of Kaur’s life explained but did not justify the crimes, the judge said, and did not warrant a lesser sentence. The public must be protected, he said.
Besides serving 66 months in prison, Kaur was ordered to repay the $40,000 taken in the four robberies.
During the St. George bank robbery, Kaur entered the U.S. Bank at 791 S. Bluff St. July 31, 2014, according to court records. Witnesses said she was wearing a dark hoodie, dark pants, large dark sunglasses and a surgical mask. She handed a teller a note demanding money, and threatening to shoot.
The teller complied and Kaur left the bank in a Nissan sedan, which was later located by a St. George Police officer traveling south on I-15 near Exit 4 in Utah.
A chase ensued and Kaur did not stop until mile post 92 on I-15 in Nevada. She surrendered after an hour-long standoff, and was taken into custody by the Mesquite Police in Nevada.
Two of the robberies Kaur pleaded guilty to occurred in California, with another occurring in Lake Havasu City, Arizona, at a Wells Fargo Bank.
In each case, the suspect gave a bank teller a note demanding money with the accompanying threat of a bomb. Nicknamed the “Bombshell Bandit,” the FBI began looking for Kaur after the first bank robbery in Valencia, California, committed June 6, 2014.
According to the FBI San Diego Division, the Bombshell Bandit derives her nickname from bomb threats she made during the robberies.
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