LOS ANGELES — Winning the lotto was a life-changing event for James Allen Hayes in more ways than one.
The man who took home a $19 million lotto jackpot back in 1998, faces up to 20 years behind bars for a string of bank robberies he committed after he blew his fortune on a soul-crushing heroin habit.
Hayes, 55, pleaded guilty to committing multiple bank heists between April and September in southern California last year in which he handed over threatening notes to tellers and walking out with thousands in cash, prosecutors said.
Authorities dubbed him the PT Cruiser Bandit, for the car he drove to his heists, or the Seasoned Bandit, for his salt and pepper hair.
Hayes was working as a Ventura security guard supervisor on the graveyard shift in January of 1998 when he won a $19 million SuperLotto jackpot.
“I’m not going to blow the money,” Hayes told the Los Angeles Times back in 1998. “I know I’ll change. But only for the better. … Mainly what I want to do is help out my family and friends in need.”
While it seemed a godsend, things went downhill quickly for Hayes.
His ex-wife took half the jackpot and left, with Hayes ending up with a $6 million lump sum. He then developed a $1,000-a-week heroin habit.
When h was arrested by the FBI in October, he was living in an abandoned garage, the FBI said.
He is scheduled to be sentenced in June.