A Napa Valley wine tour guide was arrested on suspicion of robbing at least 17 banks in California and Utah since July, authorities said.
The FBI says Art Cheney, 64, was arrested by a California Highway Patrol near Marysville Wednesday just hours after hitting a bank in Fairfield. Authorities have called him the "Highway 101 Bandit" because most of the banks were along that highway's corridor.
Friends and acquaintances in Napa Valley, where Cheney gave tours for about a decade, were surprised by the allegations.
"A bank robber?" asked Steve Taylor, the co-owner of Napa-based Executive Limousine, Cheney's employer for a couple of years. "He was very good at his job, very personable, always took the extra step. I'm shocked he would need to rob banks."
The gregarious, well-informed tour guide had been appreciated by clients and others in the business until he disappeared earlier this year, those who knew him said.
What Cheney's well-heeled Napa friends didn't know was that the
wine connoisseur had already done prison time in the early 1990s
for robbing $460 from a Wells Fargo bank in Southern California.
Cheney's son, Vince Cheney of Penngrove, in Sonoma County, said his father had mental health issues. He wondered whether his father hadn't turned back to robbing banks out of despair over dealing with diabetes without having health insurance.
"The thing that bothers me is he had a lot of people around him that really cared about him," the son said. "But he's the type of guy who didn't want to ask for help."
Cheney was jailed and arraigned on one count of armed robbery in
federal court in Sacramento on Thursday.
Information from: San Francisco Chronicle,
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)