A Hoquiam, Wash., man has pleaded guilty to the April 1 robbery of U.S. Bank in Hood River.

Thomas Austin Kinerk, 42, admitted last week in a Tacoma, Wash., federal court that he had stolen money from 17 banks in five states. He was tracked by the FBI to Yakima, Wash., and arrested for his crimes in late April.

According to reports, Kinerk became a suspect in the cases after he drove away from a Vancouver, Wash., bank in January and his license plate number was recorded by witnesses. At that time, Kinerk was already on parole in that state for a robbery conviction in 1997.

The federal agency has been working with local jurisdictions to track Kinerk’s whereabouts as he committed robberies in Kansas, Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Colorado. However, the FBI declined to publicly release details about the arrest until Kinerk had been successfully prosecuted.

“We worked closely with the FBI for a successful resolution of this case and it is satisfying when a habitual criminal is put behind bars,” said Hood River Detective Andrew Rau.

In a series of robberies that began last November and continued until April 15, Kinerk stole $25,036, with his 16th known robbery in Hood River netting $2,800. In each incident, Kinerk handed the teller a note that demanded amounts of cash that ranged from about $500 to more than $4,000. According to reports, he never appeared to be armed and did not wear a mask, although he donned a baseball cap.

In only one scenario did Kinerk leave a bank without collecting cash. He fled from a lending institution in La Grande after the teller informed him she did not have the $20s, $50s, and $100s that he was demanding. She reportedly responded to his note by saying, “Good luck, because I don’t’ have any (large bills).”

Kinerk will be sentenced for his crimes on Oct. 9 and, as part of his settlement with the United States Attorney’s office in Seattle, his recommended prison term will be 17 years.

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