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The Times' criminal justice team looks behind the scenes and behind the headlines.

February 8, 2011 at 10:14 AM

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'Polite Robber' suspect once known as 'Transaction Bandit'

Posted by John de Leon

Gregory P. Hess, the man suspected of being the so-called "Polite Robber," is a convicted bank robber who was once called the "Transaction Bandit," according to court records and an earlier Seattle Times account.

The "Polite Robber" earned the nickname because he apologized and thanked his victim during an armed robbery Saturday in the Top Hat neighborhood of King County. The suspect was arrested Monday by King County sheriff's deputies not far from the Shell Station at 2805 S.W. Roxbury St. that was robbed at gunpoint at around 11:30 a.m. Saturday.

Hess was booked into the King County Jail for investigation of robbery on Monday. The King County Prosecutor's Office says he is scheduled to make a court appearance on Tuesday afternoon in connection with Saturday's robbery.

The owner of the store released a surveillance video of Saturday's robbery in which the robber can be heard apologizing for the robbery and he promises to pay back the victim, John Henry, if he ever gets "back on my feet again." Henry gave the man $300.

To view the video, click here.

In 2003, Hess pleaded guilty to robbery after he was arrested in connection with a string of heists.

According to a June 11, 2003, Seattle Times story, Hess hadn't worked in months, and he had rent to pay and groceries to buy when he was arrested in connection with the robberies. The Seattle man had quit his job at a Starbucks in Madison Park before Christmas, and he was sure his unemployment benefits would dry up any day, according to charges filed in U.S. District Court in Seattle.

The FBI called Hess the "Transaction Bandit" because of the robber's habit of asking tellers for small change before demanding all the cash in their drawers. He used an air pistol that looked like a real gun, prosecutors said at the time. FBI agents said they caught Hess on Capitol Hill after former Starbucks co-workers said they recognized him from a bank-surveillance photo published in The Times.

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