Arrested in 2002, the Choir Boy Bandit may be one of the most interesting bank robber stories in history.
Tom Justice was an Olympic-level cyclist, with ambitions to one day win the gold. Instead, he used his custom bike and riding skills to pull off 26 heists over four years.
If he’d stopped when he was ahead, he may have stayed a free man. Instead, justice caught up with Justice during a routine police stop, when Justice tried to escape by riding way.
If you read about enough bank heists and you learn one thing. The more elaborate the robbers, the more people involved, the sooner their operation falls apart. The more simple their plans, the fewer people involved, the better chance those robbers have of getting away.
The only problem? Emptying bank drawers is not often lucrative enough to retire. One must keep robbing banks to maintain his lifestyle. That means his chances of getting busted in time are inevitable.
For Justice, it meant robbing banks all over the United States, using his unique method of robbery, hands folded with his head down. This where he earned the name Choirboy.
Tom Justice not only imagined a world where he raced bikes in the Olympics, he also saw himself as an EMT someday; a wide gamut of goals for the former president of his High School. Justice was the kid more likely to end up on a cereal box according to a quote from the SFGate.
He attended college at DePaul in Chicago. Justice was not only smart, he didn’t need the cash he stole; he had plenty of money. He started robbing banks out a morbid curiosity to see if he could.
The first bank he robbed, Justice walked out with $15K. That money, he ditched, stashing it where he knew homeless folks would find it. He kept only the two-dollar bills as souvenirs.
It wasn’t until he’d robbed many more banks that he started using the cash for steroids. Justice lived in San Diego at that time. He was training for the Olympics, robbing banks and doping to improve his performance.
After an injury kept him out of the Olympics, he moved back to Chicago in 2002, where his luck ran out.
There was no shouting, no waving of guns in Justice’s technique. In fact, police gave him his name for the way Justice stood inside the banks. He would keep his head down, obscuring his face from the cameras by a baseball hat.
To keep his finger prints off anything, Justice folded his hands for the duration of his time in the bank. After he got his hands on the money by submitting a note, Justice would flee on his bike.
Once he was far enough away from the bank, he would strip down to his spandex biking gear, then throw a messenger bag over his shoulder. In this outfit, he could go wherever he wanted, as fast as he wanted. Cops would ignore him.
The bike ridden Justice was not an ordinary bike. The frame was custom, built out a shop in Chicago. It was the kind of frame you buy as a part, not as a bike, but as the foundation for a racing bike.
After his last robbery, a cop stopped Justice out of curiosity, but he fled on his bike. In a moment of panic, Justice ditched the $3,000 bike in a creek, along with his sunglasses and racing cleats. This was his undoing.
Police picked up the bike, then paraded it on social media until they found the shop that made it. Because the bike was custom, it wasn’t long before they traced it back to Justice.
A shop came forward admitting that they’d worked on the bike extensively. The former bike owner also stepped forward, citing that he’d sold and shipped the bike to California.
Few bank robbery stories end on a positive note. Justice went to jail after they picked him up at his parent’s home in Chicago. That was the tough part, but after he got out, Justice finished school. He graduated with a degree in psychology.
Hopefully, he’s put the choirboy persona away for good. With a name like Justice, they won’t take it easy on him next time.