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81-year-old deemed mentally fit for trial on robbery charge

June 24, 2019
FILE - This Jan. 14, 2018, photo released by the Tucson Police Department shows 81-year-old Robert Francis Krebs, who was charged with robbing a credit union in Tucson, Ariz. A judge has ruled Krebs, who claimed to have symptoms of Alzheimer's disease, is mentally fit to stand trial. (Tucson Police Department via AP, File)

PHOENIX (AP) — An 81-year-old man who has spent decades behind bars for stealing from banks is mentally fit to stand trial in a credit union robbery in Arizona, despite his claim that he has had symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, a judge ruled.

The decision against Robert Krebs came after a psychologist determined Krebs didn’t have a mental illness or cognitive impairment and was instead malingering to avoid prosecution for the robbery last year in Tucson.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Jacqueline Rateau said in the June 19 ruling that Krebs understands the nature of the case against him and was able to meticulously tell FBI agents how he planned and carried out the robbery.

“He explained that he was struggling to adjust to the life outside prison and claimed that he did not wear a disguise or mask during the robbery because he wanted to get caught,” Rateau wrote.

Krebs told authorities that he committed the robbery because his monthly $800 Social Security payment wasn’t enough to live on. The months before the robbery were the worst in his life as he tried to adjust to life on the outside after his release from prison, according to the ruling.

Krebs served more than 30 years in prison for a 1981 bank robbery in Florida and was sentenced to three years in prison after a 1966 conviction in Chicago for embezzling $72,000 from a bank where he worked as a teller.

He also served another 17 years in Arizona for theft and armed robbery convictions from Arizona dating back to 1980.

He was released from prison in the summer of 2017, about six months before the robbery at Pyramid Federal Credit Union branch in a Tucson strip mall.

Krebs walked into the bank, put a handgun that turned out to be a BB gun on the counter, and demanded cash, authorities say.

Krebs walked away from the bank with nearly $8,400 and later told FBI agents he almost got struck by a vehicle while crossing a roadway, prosecutors said. He was arrested at a hotel.

Krebs has pleaded not guilty to a bank robbery charge.

Authorities say it’s unusual for older people to hold up lending institutions. Typically, bank robbers are in their 20s.

J.L. Hunter “Red” Rountree, who has been dubbed America’s oldest bank robber, was convicted of committing two robberies in his mid-80s and was 91 at the time of his last heist in the early 2000s. He robbed banks in Mississippi, Florida and Texas.

Rountree died in prison at age 92.

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Follow Jacques Billeaud at www.twitter.com/jacquesbilleaud.

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