Chronic bank robber 'Crown Royal Bandit' admits guilt

A Blairsville man pleaded guilty Friday in federal court to robbing 29 banks across Georgia over the past 11 years.

Bruce Allen Hughes, known as the “Crown Royal Bandit, pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy to commit armed robbery, five counts of armed bank robbery, six counts of use of a firearm during a felony and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Hughes, 48, was in U.S. District Court in Gainesville.

From May 1997 to February 2008, Hughes struck 29 banks, often wearing a mask and armed with a gun, U.S. Attorney David E. Nahmias said. He first struck at a Wachovia in Alpharetta, but his robberies extended across north Georgia and into Tennessee.

During two of the robberies, he fired his gun, Nahmias said. No injuries were reported.

Hughes took a total of more than $300,000 in the robberies, Nahmias said.

“Today’s guilty plea will lead to a life sentence for one of the most prolific armed bank robbers ever to plague the citizens of Georgia,” Nahmias said in a statement Friday. “Never again will this violent criminal terrorize another teller or customer as he did over the last decade. Thanks to literally years of exhaustive investigation, the reign of the Crown Royal Bandit is over.”

FBI agents have been tracking Hughes for years, referring to him as the “Crown Royal Bandit” because of the purple liquor bags he used to collect the stolen cash during several of his robberies

“The many bank employees and customers that bore the brunt emotionally of this defendant’s robberies can take some measure of satisfaction that he will now be off the streets and that the FBI stayed the course in the pursuit of justice,” FBI Atlanta Special Agent in Charge Greg Jones said in a statement.

Deputies arrested Hughes in 2008 after receiving a tip he was living in a trailer in Madison County.

Hughes, 48, faces a mandatory minimum of 147 years in prison and fine up to $3.5 million. No sentencing date has been set.

Hughes also has a previous robbery conviction in Florida.