SFO union head arrested for bank heists

By Ron Harris Associated Press Writer
Saturday August 11, 2001

SAN FRANCISCO – The president of the air traffic controllers’ union at San Francisco International Airport admitted in an affidavit that he was the so-called “Robust Robber,” suspected of robbing up to nine banks, his attorney said Friday. 

“He’s blown it,” said his attorney Randy Pollock. 

Rick Lee Davis, 43, of San Francisco, who earned about $120,000, allegedly told detectives he robbed banks to fly his children to and from Hawaii to visit him and to pay child support. 

Davis was charged Tuesday with one bank robbery stemming from his arrest in Concord on Aug. 3. A federal judge set bail at $150,000 Friday. 

Pollock said Davis was depressed and remorseful for the circumstances that have landed him behind bars. 

“He’s lost his job. He’s lost his career,” she said. “He’ll never work for the federal government again. 

“This is not a happy time in his life,” she added. 

Pollock anticipated Davis would be released to a halfway house in San Francisco late Friday where Magistrate Judge Wayne Brazil ordered him to remain as his case goes through federal court. 

Davis appeared before Brazil in a red jail jumpsuit, his graying hair cut close and his demeanor reserved. The nickname “Robust Robber” came from the thief’s stocky build. Davis is heavyset and 5-foot-7. 

Davis was arrested after an off-duty Concord police officer noticed him handing a note to a teller at a Bank of America branch, raising suspicions because other bank robberies had been pulled off using the same method in recent months. 

After receiving the note “the teller’s eyes go wide and the teller just started shoveling money across the counter,” said Concord police detective Mike Finney. Davis was arrested as he exited the bank with $3,199. 

Although Davis’ attorney said the arrest would end her client’s career, Federal Aviation Administration western region spokesman Jerry Snyder confirmed that Davis still has his job. 

Brazil ordered two relatives and an acquaintance of Davis provide three signatures as part of the $150,000 bond requirement to guarantee Davis’ appearance in court for Aug. 21. 

“All these people are sticking their necks out for you, so it’s really important that you abide by the rules,” Brazil told Davis. 

Davis has been an employee of the FAA since 1986. He worked in Hawaii before moving to San Francisco, where he represents the tower’s 50 FAA employees with the National Air Traffic Controllers Association. 

Last week, Davis spoke to about 300 people at the College of San Mateo during a hearing on SFO’s hotly debated plans to expand its runways by filling in a portion of San Francisco Bay. 

The FBI alleges Davis has robbed nine banks since Oct. 17, 2000, with the first eight in Fremont, Newark and Union City. About $60,000 was stolen from the banks in total. 

Davis could face 180 years in prison if convicted.