RENO, Nev. (AP) — A serial bank robber who recently completed a 10-year prison term in California has been sentenced to life behind bars in Nevada as a habitual criminal with a lengthy record that included a brazen scam in which he claimed to be a prison official.
A judge in Reno sentenced Stephen Bartlett, 62, to life in prison without parole this week based on a criminal history with more than three dozen felonies over two decades, the Washoe County District Attorney’s office said in a statement Thursday.
The crimes in Nevada included a bizarre scam 13 years ago when Bartlett used a fake name to dupe a local supplier with a fraudulent order for nearly $9,000 in copper pipes on behalf of the Northern Nevada Correctional Center in Carson City, prosecutors said.
They said Bartlett arrived at Western Nevada Supply in October 2010 in a rental truck and drove off with the pipes just weeks after police determined he was an inmate missing from a minimum-security work camp. He was apprehended weeks later in California and extradited back to Nevada.
Bartlett served time for his escape charge in Nevada and eventually pleaded guilty to grand larceny for the pipe theft. He was released on a bail and scheduled to be sentenced in Reno in September 2014, but failed to show up in court, prosecutors said.
A subsequent search and investigation led to his arrest later that year in Southern California. Police eventually determined he was the suspect they’d dubbed the “Hills Bandit” in connection with 10 bank robberies in San Diego and Orange counties earlier in 2014. As part of a plea deal with prosecutors, he pleaded guilty to five counts of bank robbery in 2015 and was sentenced to 10 years in prison with credit for time served.
Upon his release from prison earlier this year, Bartlett was extradited back to Nevada where the district attorney resumed completion of his sentencing on the theft charge.
Washoe District Attorney Darcy Cameron said at Monday’s sentencing that Bartlett’s “overwhelming prior criminal history,” including 37 felonies, warranted the maximum penalty by attaching the sentencing enhancement of being a habitual criminal.
Washoe District Judge Scott Freeman agreed and sentenced him to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Bartlett will serve his life term at the same Northern Nevada Correction Center where he once had claimed he worked.