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‘Bad Grandpa’ bandit sentenced to 35 years in prison

SAN DIEGO -- An ex-con dubbed the "Bad Grandpa'' bandit because of the disguise he wore while robbing four banks in San Diego apologized to his victims Thursday after being sentenced to 35 years in state prison.

James Saputo pleaded guilty in June to robbery, attempted robbery and other charges. The 51-year-old defendant still faces charges that he robbed seven banks in Riverside and Orange counties, the prosecutor said.

The defendant faced more than 130 years to life in prison for the San Diego heists, but Judge Michael Groch struck one of Saputo's prior strike offenses, making it a "two-strike'' instead of a "three-strike'' case.

The judge told Saputo that no matter the sentence, he would likely spend the rest of his life behind bars.

Deputy District Attorney Lucy Yturralde read statements from some of Saputo's victims, including a Mission Federal Credit Union employee who said the robbery in February 2016 affected her in many ways. She said the credit union is no longer a "cozy workplace.''

"He (Saputo) violated all of us that day,'' the employee wrote.

Another victim said that during the robbery, she was fearful she would never she her family again.

After he was sentenced, Saputo told his victims he was sorry and said hearing a woman express fear that she would never see her sons again "destroyed me inside.''

Saputo was arrested twice in 2016 on drug charges and was out of custody on bail when he committed the bank robberies in San Diego between Feb. 12 and March 30 last year, Yturralde said.

Authorities nicknamed Saputo the "Bad Grandpa'' bandit because of the elderly disguise he donned, which included a wig, glasses and a cane.

Saputo's criminal record dates back to 1986. He has 14 prior convictions, including bank robberies in Del Mar and San Marcos.

The judge ordered Saputo to pay more than $7,800 in restitution to three financial institutions and one car rental company.