‘Serial bank robber’ sentenced to 12 years

This image was taken moments before the May 20 robbery of a First Federal branch in North Charleston by Samuel Glenn Garwood, who handed a teller a note demanding money.

A South Carolina man convicted of robbing four banks, including three in the Charleston area, has been sentenced to 12 years in prison for a brief two-state crime spree last spring.

U.S. District Judge Thomas Johnston of West Virginia described Samuel Glenn Garwood as a “serial bank robber” and said his crimes had “terrible psychological effects” on the tellers he confronted, according to published reports.

Johston sentenced Garwood, 49, on Friday.

The one-time Myrtle Beach resident first made headlines in Charleston in December 2003 when he attempted an ill-timed bank heist on James Island. Garwood handed a teller at a First Citizens branch a note demanding money and walked out with about $2,600 in cash.

Unbeknownst to him, an off-duty officer from the Charleston Police Department happened to be inside the bank building on personal business. The officer immediately called in the crime, including a description of the getaway vehicle.

Garwood was arrested within 10 minutes, and he went to prison for more than six years.

After his release in April 2010, Garwood was placed on supervised release for three years. But within three months, Garwood admitted to using cocaine, a court document shows. A federal judge in Charleston ordered him to home confinement and increased substance-abuse treatment. Also, Garwood’s whereabouts were to be monitored electronically.

About a year ago, local police issued new arrest warrants for Garwood, who was suspected of robbing two First Federal offices on May 18 and May 20.

In the first robbery in North Charleston, Garwood passed a note demanding loose bills in 20-, 50- and 100-dollar denominations and instructing the teller in the Rivers Avenue branch to “not say anything for five minutes,“ according to a court record. He left with $340.

Two days later he robbed the First Federal on St. James Avenue in Goose Creek of $2,650.

Garwood fled South Carolina around May 26, according to a court record. He ended up in West Virginia, where he robbed two credit unions of $7,651.

Garwood’s spree ended when federal authorities arrested him June 6.

The local two-count indictment against him were transferred later to West Virginia for prosecution. Garwood pleaded guilty Nov. 1.

His attorney, Michael Payne, noted in a March sentencing report that his client “grew up a very troubled child” and had a history of substance abuse problems. Payne also said Garwood “did not present a gun, or hurt anyone during these crimes.”

Reach John McDermott at 937-5572