Fishing Hat Bandit Headed Up TheRiver

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ST. PAUL, Minn. - (05/09/05) -- A man who menaced area credit unionsover two years wearing a trademark fishing hat and deep-waterwaders pleaded guilty Friday to 21 robberies and one attemptedrobbery, almost all of them at credit unions. John Whitrock, 57,dubbed the Fishing Hat Bandit for his preferred dress during theheists, is believed to have robbed as many as 25 area credit unionsand banks--making him the most prolific bank robber in statehistory--but he never showed a gun. "Remember, this is a guy whowent into the bank and asked for the money and they gave it tohim," Whitrock's attorney, Andrea George, said after Friday's courtplea. Authorities finally reeled in the Fishing Hat Bandit onJanuary 7 when Dean Wickstrom, president of Real Financial CenterCU, tracked him after a hold-up at his credit union and calledpolice on his cell phone to tell them where Whitrock was hiding.Most of the robberies involved small amounts, between $326 and$12,877, netting the Fishing Hat Bandit less than $90,000, intotal. Whitrock faces up to 20 years in prison for each robberycount when sentenced.

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