What does it take for someone to go from a lottery millionaire to a bank robber?
This is a question you may want to reserve for Jim Hayes.
This is a classic rags-to-riches tale gone bad. Our story opens in 1998. Jim was 35 at the time and he got the biggest surprise of his life – Jim had won the lottery. Little did he know that his life was going to make a terrible turn in a few years.
The Fairytale Begins
While working as a security guard, Jim decided to test his luck with a Quick Pick lottery ticket. That little piece of paper made Jim 19 million dollars richer.
The brand-new millionaire opted for 20 annual payments, each one of 684,000 dollars. Jim was on the road to changing his life for the better. After all, so much money would certainly result in a lot of happiness, wouldn’t it?
“Having money enabled me to live my wildest dreams,” Jim Hayes said in an interview with the Daily Beast. Soon, however, things started to spiral out of control.
Jim splurged on a lavish lifestyle. Porsches, Lamborghinis, oceanfront condos, trips to Vegas – you name it, Jim had it. Regardless of the fact that Jim was initially committed to not blowing the money, he was soon wasting obscenely large amounts.
According to Jim, the so-called lottery curse had gotten to him.
Shortly before winning, Jim had been going through some family problems and depression. The 19 million dollars, however, weren’t spent on therapy and getting better. Instead, Jim decided to make his life better through luxury purchases, spending on women, and drugs.
Eventually, things got so bad that Jim started getting advances on the next year’s lottery payment. He was borrowing against the upcoming annual installment but the sum he was wasting happened to be much larger than his win.
His lifestyle enabled Jim to meet celebrities and eventually become something of a socialite. Luxury sports car events, auto shows – everybody knew that Jim was going to be there.
In the late 90s, the lifestyle started getting to Jim. His first wife asked for a divorce and she was awarded half of the annual lottery installments. Regardless of the significant reduction in income, however, Jim continued living as a big spender.
His second wife met him during that period of his life, saying that Jim would settle for nothing but the best. Rolex watches, Harley Davidson bikes, Persian rugs – these were just a few of the luxuries that Jim continued spending on, regardless of his dwindling fortune. They went on multiple trips together and the courtship turned into a real romantic fairytale for the lady of Jim’s heart.
Jim married his second wife in 2002. It was Valentine’s Day. Soon after, she suggested that he take financial management classes, worried about the extravagant life Jim was used to. Still, Jim continued the downward spiral. He was an emotional spender, attempting to fill what was missing in his life through luxury purchases.
Because he won, Jim also felt obliged to help friends less fortunate than him. Over the years after winning the lottery, he’d been known to hand out large sums to those who came asking.
Medical problems piled up on top of everything else. Since he didn’t have a steady job or healthcare, Jim had to cover the expenses out of his pocket.
From a Prince to a Bank Robber
Luck can head out the door just as quickly as it comes in somebody’s life.
In 2007, Jim was left with no other choice but to file bankruptcy. The sums of money he owed became so humongous that the California Lottery had to begin withholding some of the funds he would have received otherwise in his annual payments.
By 2015, the IRS was so heavily involved with Jim that he didn’t get a single cent of what was left of his lottery fortune.
Hooked on drugs and desperate for cash, Jim moved into a small apartment. He was hired as a manager in the complex, in exchange for rent-free living.
Fate, however, wasn’t done with Jim yet.
In 2017, a massive building fire destroyed almost everything that Jim owned. Since Jim was listed as an independent contractor rather than a tenant, he was left with no unemployment benefits of resident rights in the aftermath of the disaster.
Since this episode, Jim went on to apply for 38 jobs! His health problems and the fact that he hadn’t worked in a long, long time, however, left him completely unemployable.
By that time, Jim was so broke that he had to relocate to a friend’s garage. He was desperate.
Jim no longer had the money to pay for his addiction and he started experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms. He was in pain and he got any street drug he could find in order to get relief.
At wit’s end, Jim was eager to do anything for money. This is when he got the idea to rob a bank.
He was pissed off at the world, addicted, and living in a garage. From Jim’s perspective, things couldn’t get any worse. Jim believed that stealing money from a bank wasn’t like robbing an innocent person. Nobody would suffer but a major corporation.
His first bank robbery occurred when Jim Hayes was 55. Armed with a mask and a stuffed pillow under his shirt, Jim went to a Montecito Bank & Trust branch in Carpinteria. In a few minutes, he was back in his car with 3,300 dollars handed over by a cashier.
Because he had gotten away with it, Jim decided to do it again.
This time, however, he educated himself on how to carry out a low-risk bank robbery. From books and documentaries, Jim found out that the best time to strike would be around 5 p.m. – the hour in which police officers changed their shifts. Jim used liquid bandages on his fingertips to avoid leaving prints.
Jim also refrained from using a gun in his robberies. He knew that a firearm would increase the length of the sentence in the event of ever getting caught.
In the coming five months, Jim carried out a number of additional heists. By the time the FBI showed up at his door, he had stolen over 40,000 dollars. With the stolen cash, he had bought a champagne-colored getaway car. This vehicle gave him the nickname the PT Cruiser Bandit and this is how Jim Hayes was presented in all media reports. By the time he was caught, Jim had robbed at least nine banks.
All of this time, Jim was keeping these activities a secret. His second wife said she didn’t suspect anything about his illegal activities.
In October 2017, Jim was arrested in front of his friend’s garage. He was gunned down and handcuffed at gunpoint by 15 agents. His wife was also taken into custody and both of them got interrogated.
Even when she saw bank footage of the robbery, Jim’s wife still couldn’t believe he was capable of doing it.
Jim Hayes confessed his crime immediately. All he asked for was a cigarette to smoke during the interrogation.
In March 2018, Jim Hayes pleaded guilty to four counts of robbery. By that time, he had gotten clean from the drugs and he was capable of thinking clearly once again.
Jim’s attorney put emphasis on his clean criminal record, the non-violent nature of the crime, and the pressing circumstances that had forced Jim to break the law. The former millionaire was sentenced to 33 months in prison, three years of probation, and a fine of 39,424 dollars. According to his lawyer, the nature of the crimes warranted a much harsher sentence.
In a recent interview, Jim said that this was a new turning point in his life. He actually claimed that prison was good for him. It had apparently saved his life. At the time of the interview, Jim was celebrating eight months of sobriety.
If you believe that the lottery curse isn’t a real thing, you should think again. Jim Hayes is living, breathing-proof. Jim is set to get out of prison in February 2020. He already has plans for the time of his release. He wants to publish a memoir and he has already chosen a working title – Lottery to Robbery. Jim is also looking forward to rebuilding the relationships he lost with friends and family while he was too busy spending on luxuries that didn’t bring him happiness.