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John Dillinger of Buffalo pleads to seven bank robberies

Michael “Max” Mitchell, the Buffalo man accused of robbing more banks than John Dillinger, admitted Friday to doing seven robberies as part of a crime spree stretching from Niagara Falls to Lackawanna.

The FBI claims Mitchell is linked to 19 other robberies, but he pleaded guilty to just six counts of bank robbery as part of a plea deal that ends the government’s prosecution against him.

Now 22, he will face up to 20 years in prison when he’s sentenced by U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara, although sentencing guidelines recommend a maximum of 9 years in prison.

Mitchell oversaw a string of 26 robberies over an 8-month period ending with his arrest in January of last year, the FBI says.

“For many months, Michael Mitchell was a facilitator, intimidator and robber in multiple bank robberies,” said Brian P. Boetig, special agent in charge of the FBI in Buffalo. “The FBI Safe Streets Task Force worked tirelessly to arrest Mitchell last January and witness him stand in a federal courtroom to face his punishment for the many crimes he has committed.”

It was, by law enforcement accounts, a prolific crime spree, and Mitchell, the man accused of orchestrating it all, has finally admitted some guilt.

His plea agreement makes no specific mention of the other robberies but it does account for his role in some of them.

“He was instructing others," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Mary Catherine Baumgarten. “He was telling other people what to do.”

Mitchell, however, stops well short of admitting a role in all of the holdups as part of his plea deal with federal prosecutors.

The allegation that he was the ringleader behind a group of bank robbers - court papers say there were 12, at least three of them of women - began with the FBI and gained steam as defense attorneys publicly blamed him for their clients’ role in the crimes.

It was Mitchell, they told the court, who schooled the others in how to carry out a holdup and what to write in their notes to tellers.

And it was Mitchell who carried a chrome 45-caliber pistol with an extended magazine, and sometimes used it to threaten the people around him, the FBI said in court papers.

Despite the allegations, Mitchell pleaded guilty to seven robberies, not 26, and there’s no mention of the other robberies in his plea deal with prosecutors.

“He absolutely denies any role in those robberies," said Michael L. D’Amico, Mitchell’s defense lawyer. “And I don’t think the government has any evidence of his involvement.”

email: pfairbanks@buffnews.com