Serial bank robber admits to crimes around Coachella Valley

So-called ``Snowboarder Bandit'' sentenced to 8 years in prison after pleading guilty to several bank hold ups

INDIO, Calif. - The ``Snowboarder Bandit'' pleaded guilty Monday to committing three bank robberies and one attempted heist in the Coachella Valley and was immediately sentenced to nearly eight years behind bars.

Michael Brandon Franks, a 31-year-old Riverside resident, pleaded guilty to three counts of robbery, four counts of burglary and two counts of attempted robbery stemming from four crimes that occurred between April 11 and May 4, 2012, according to Deputy District Attorney Steve Morgan.

Franks, who was on the FBI's most-wanted list in Southern California, also robbed nine banks in Orange County and was suspected of robbing a bank in Ventura County.

Franks likely would have gone to trial this week for the Coachella Valley crimes, Morgan said. He has a March 14 sentencing date in Orange County, the prosecutor said, and is free on a $500,000 bond.

The ``Snowboarder Bandit'' moniker stemmed from the suspect's youthful appearance and the knit hats and ski clothes he wore during some of the holdups.

Franks robbed a First California Bank branch in Palm Desert and tried to rob a U.S. Bank in Bermuda Dunes, both on May 4, 2012; robbed a BBVA Compass branch in Palm Springs on April 20 that year; and robbed a Chase bank in Rancho Mirage on April 11, 2012. Morgan estimated he stole a total of around $15,000.

In the U.S. Bank attempt, Morgan said Franks handed a clerk a note demanding money, but the clerk didn't give him any cash.

Franks pleaded guilty in November to 10 counts of robbery and two counts of attempted robbery in connection with 10 holdups at nine Orange County banks that netted about $30,000 and were carried out between Dec. 20, 2011, and March 21, 2012, according to the Orange County District Attorney's Office. 

The Schools First Federal Credit Union branch in Anaheim was hit twice, according to prosecutors.

FBI Special Agent Chris Gicking said a surveillance camera photo from a holdup in Palm Springs was especially helpful in identifying the suspect, who had ditched the ski hat in favor of a large motorcycle helmet in several recent holdups.

In the Palm Springs BBVA Compass robbery, the suspect donned a baseball cap without sunglasses, as he had in past robberies, Gicking said.

No cases involving Franks are listed in the Ventura County court system.

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