Real Name: Patrick Michael Mitchell
Aliases: Paddy Mitchell, Johnny Grant, Bobby Mitchell, Roger Langfeld, Roger Lanthorn, Michael Garrison, Richard Joseph Landry, Richard Jordan Baird, Gilbert Keyes
Wanted For: Armed Robbery, Escape
Missing Since: December 1987
Details: Forty-eight-year-old Patrick Michael Mitchell is considered one of the most skilled bank robbers in the United States. He is currently wanted by the FBI for armed robbery and escape. At 8:30am on December 14, 1987, two armed men wearing Ronald Reagan masks and surgical gloves broke into a Gainesville, Florida bank by smashing an axe through its glass front door. One of the men said, "Nobody move! Just put your hands up, and no one will get hurt." The bank had not yet opened for business. Employees were marking the weekend deposits. In less than five minutes, the two robbers made off with nearly $500,000.
Working with similar MOs, the FBI targeted Richard Joseph Landry, alias Michael Garrison, alias Roger Lanthorn. They all turned out to be the same man, Mitchell. During the last fifteen years, his heists have netted close to $3 million. He is an escape artist and master of disguise. He changes identities like most men change shirts. Each time he robs a bank he wears a different comic mask: Ronald Reagan, Richard Nixon, even Bozo the Clown. The FBI believes the masks are his way of thumbing his nose at authority. After fourteen bank robberies in the United States and Canada, and two prison escapes, on November 23, 1990, he became the newest addition to the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List.
FBI Special Agent William Fluharty describes Mitchell as "confident and vain." Mitchell is believed to have taken the prescription drug Retin-A, which supposedly helps keep a youthful appearance. He is a fitness buff and has been described as having an athletic build. He likes to spend time with women. He fancies himself as a gourmet cook. In fact, authorities have recovered cookbooks from the trunk of one of his cars. So far, they have identified at least twenty-five different aliases that he has used in the past eleven years.
Mitchell was originally from Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. During the 1970s and early 1980s, he was a part of the "Stopwatch Gang." Other members were fellow Canadians Stephen Reid and Lionel Wright. They robbed more than 140 banks and stores throughout Canada and the United States, stealing approximately $15 million. They received their name because Reid always wore a stopwatch around his neck during their robberies. They were famous for their "speedy heists" which usually took less than two minutes. In 1974, they hijacked a $750,000 gold shipment from the Ottawa airport. They were later arrested and convicted in that case. Mitchell and Wright were also convicted of drug smuggling. However, by 1979, they had all escaped from prison.
On November 15, 1979, Mitchell escaped from Gloucester Penitentiary after purposefully swallowing nicotine from cigarettes, inducing heart attack-like symptoms. On the way to the hospital, his fellow gang members intercepted his ambulance and freed him. Over the next year, they committed several bank robberies in Florida and California. Their biggest heist occurred on September 23, 1980, when they robbed a Bank of America in San Diego of $283,000. In October, Reid and Wright were arrested in Sedona, Arizona. They were later sentenced to twenty years in prison for their involvement in the San Diego bank robbery.
With the arrest of his partners, Mitchell began committing robberies on his own. He robbed several department stores and banks in Florida, Arkansas, and Arizona. In 1982, he was arrested after the botched robbery of a department store in Phoenix. However, the judge, unaware that he was a fugitive, set his bail for $16,500. After he was bailed out, he quickly returned to bank robbery. In February 1983, he was arrested by the FBI in Florida. He was returned to California where he was convicted of robbing the San Diego bank and sentenced to ten years in prison. He was also convicted of robbing the Phoenix department store. Shortly afterwards, he was given a twenty-year sentence at Arizona State Prison.
On May 9, 1986, Mitchell and two other prisoners assigned to janitorial duties staged a bold escape. It had been meticulously planned and precisely timed by Mitchell himself. While the guards were distracted, one of the prisoners jumped on top of a vending machine and entered the air conditioning ducts. Mitchell and the other prisoner soon followed him. They crawled through the ducts which went right above the warden's office. They ended up in the utility room.
None of the guards noticed that the three men were missing. No alarms had been set off. Wearing street clothes they had hidden in the utility room, they simply walked outside. One of their girlfriends was waiting for them. She had been duped into believing that they were on a weekend furlough. The escape went off without a hitch.
One of the men would eventually be arrested in Atlanta, Georgia. Mitchell, with the third escapee, Johnny Salazar Stewart, headed for Gainesville. According to Agent Fluharty, Mitchell and his robbery partners normally come into a town a month or two in advance. They come in on multiple occasions. They stay at local hotels and motels. After staking out department stores or armored car services, they determine when and where they will make their "hit."
In Fall 1987, Mitchell and Stewart began planning a robbery in Gainesville. Mitchell rented a self-storage unit with a good view of both the bank they intended to rob and the armored car company that served the bank. He pretended to load and unload boxes from the storage unit, while he observed the routine operating movements of the armored car company.
Mitchell never went inside the bank himself. Instead, he sent Stewart to scout the interior. Stewart opened an account there, which gave him a legitimate reason to be there. As a result, no one questioned him while he walked around, looked around, and conversed with customers and employees. It also allowed him to be there when deliveries were made by the armored car company. He was able to see what they were doing and how they were doing it.
At 7:30am on December 14, 1987, the day of the robbery, Mitchell and Stewart met at the self-storage facility. At 7:50am, bank employees began filing in to prepare for business hours. The bank normally opened at 9am. At 8am, the armored car left to pick up deposits from several nearby stores. At 8:10am, the Gainesville police operator received a bomb threat. The target: a junior high school in Northeast Gainesville – the same police district as the bank.
At 8:22am, the armored car guards arrived at the bank, swelling its total deposits on hand to $300,000. Simultaneously, patrol cars were dispatched to the site of the bomb threat, thirty-two blocks from the bank. Police believe that Mitchell phoned in the false alarm as a diversionary tactic.
At 8:25am, Mitchell and Stewart made their move. Using an axe, they broke through the bank's glass front door. They demanded the money bags that the armored car had just dropped off. Head teller Virginia Fields thought they were either going to shoot someone or take someone hostage. She was very frightened. Teller Ronda Broskey remembers laying on the floor in the back of the bank; she thought that she would never see her husband or children again. She started to cry, thinking that she was going to be shot in the back.
After Mitchell and Stewart got the money bags from the armored car, they left the bank. Before leaving, Mitchell pulled out a shaving kit and left it on a table, saying: "This is a bomb. Nobody move, and it won’t go off." As they fled, he dropped a bag containing $28,000. Nevertheless, their take for the day was nearly $500,000. The bomb was a phony, but it bought them valuable escape time. At 8:40am, a woman who worked at the storage facility witnessed Mitchell driving away, a rack full of clothes hung across the back seat. It was the last sighting of him in Gainesville.
Two months after the Gainesville robbery, Stewart was apprehended. Despite his innocent plea, he was tried and convicted for his role in the robbery. He was sentenced to forty years in prison. A year after the robbery, Mitchell’s Cadillac was found abandoned at a storage facility in Tallahassee, 150 miles from Gainesville. The car was clean of evidence, but Mitchell did leave nine cookbooks in the back seat.
During the last two years, Mitchell has been sighted in Texas, Georgia, and Alabama; he was last seen near Galveston. He has a special fondness for coastal areas. However, he is Canadian and authorities believe he could have returned to Canada. His last known alias was "Johnny Grant." Along with the multiple aliases, he has also used at least three different social security numbers. Agent Fluharty thinks it is imperative that Mitchell is found; he does not believe that Mitchell will stop committing robberies. Based on his previous activities in the past decade and his "hit frequency", Agent Fluharty believes it is not "if" he is going to hit, but "when" he is going to hit.
Mitchell is a heavy cocaine user. He is known to pay cash for everything. He has previously worked as a salesman. He enjoys horses and horse betting. He has been known to wear his hair in different styles and colors. In order to appear younger, he has had plastic surgery and uses Retin-A and other cosmetic aids. In 1986, he sported a tattoo on his left arm reading "Helen and Pat". The FBI believes he may be taking pains to conceal it and may even have had it removed. Authorities want to question his twenty-year-old son, Kevin, but they have been unable to locate him.
- This case first aired on the January 23, 1991 episode. Also featured was a bank robber roll call which included: Jockey Bandit, Mr. Nasty, and Mary Poppins Bandit.
- It was also featured on America’s Most Wanted.
- While in prison, Mitchell wrote an autobiography titled This Bank Robber's Life.
Results: Captured. In June 1993, a man believed to be Mitchell robbed a bank in Hilton Head, South Carolina. However, he was able to elude capture. A few months later, after America's Most Wanted re-aired his story, a couple recognized him and contacted the FBI, saying that he was living in the Philippines. However, when they arrived at his home, they discovered that he had fled (someone had tipped him off beforehand). He had been living there for several years under the name "Gary Weber" with his new wife and child. He had also returned to the United States several times; during those visits, he robbed several banks.
On February 22, 1994, Mitchell was arrested immediately after robbing the Deposit Guaranty National Bank in Southaven, Mississippi. Before the robbery, he had phoned in a bomb threat to Southaven police in an attempt to divert their attention. It was a ploy he had used several times before. However, the police chief suspected that it was a trick; as a result, he sent police cars to each of the banks in the city. When Mitchell exited the bank in a disguise and carrying a bag full of $100,000 in cash, he was arrested without incident by police officers stationed outside.
In October 1994, Mitchell pleaded guilty to two bank robberies and received two thirty-year sentences. That same month, authorities discovered that he and three other inmates at the Lafayette County Detention Center were planning to escape by sawing out an air duct. The plan was similar to ones he had used in previous escape attempts. In May 1995, he was convicted of federal attempted escape charges and was sentenced to an additional five years in prison.
On January 14, 2007, Mitchell died of lung cancer in prison; he was sixty-four. Wright was released from prison in 1994. Reid was released in 1987; however, in 1999, he robbed another bank and was returned to prison. In 2014, he was released again. He died four years later.
- Patrick Mitchell at Wikipedia
- Patrick Mitchell on the FBI's website
- Escapee ordered to California trial - March 3, 1983
- Robbery suspect may be escapee - December 15, 1987
- Arizona escapee in FBI top 10 - November 24, 1990
- Canadian joins most wanted - November 26, 1990
- Fugitive suspected in bank heist (Page 1)
(Page 2) - June 23, 1993
- FBI expect bank robber to strike again - November 7, 1993
- Tactics foil suspect on "Top 10" list (Page 1)
(Page 2) - February 23, 1994
- Foiled robbery suspect linked to long list of heists (Page 1)
(Page 2) - February 24, 1994
- "Presidential robber" guilty of escape attempt - May 11, 1995
- "Presidential robber" gets term - July 7, 1995
- Nation’s best bank robber behind bars - August 28, 1995
- Notorious bank robber meets his match in Mississippi - August 28, 1995
- Fast Bank Robber Slows Up in Jail - October 8, 1995
- Stopwatch Gang leader, Paddy Mitchell, dies - January 15, 2007
- Time runs out on Stopwatch Gang leader - January 16, 2007
- Wake held for notorious Stopwatch Gang leader - January 25, 2007
- The Life and Times of the Stopwatch Gang - 2015
- Patrick Mitchell at Find a Grave