Ex-sheriff's deputy pleads guilty in Cambria bank robbery

A surveillance photo shows the person who robbed the Cambria Rabobank on Thursday, Nov. 7.
A surveillance photo shows the person who robbed the Cambria Rabobank on Thursday, Nov. 7.

A one-time sheriff’s deputy with an expensive gambling habit pleaded guilty Tuesday to robbing a bank in Cambria.

When he is formally sentenced March 11, Bruce Franklin Valentine, 70, of Heritage Ranch faces a prison sentence ranging from two years to 51⁄2 years. Initially scheduled for a preliminary hearing Tuesday, Valentine entered guilty pleas to both robbery and attempted robbery.

A sheriff’s deputy in Santa Barbara County for seven years during the 1960s and ’70s, Valentine allegedly brandished a handgun when he entered the Rabobank in Cambria on Nov. 7. Witnesses said a man wearing a hooded sweatshirt and a Halloween mask entered the bank about 12:30 p.m. that day with a sign demanding, “no marked bills, no dye packs, put all of your money in the bag, large bills only,” before walking out with $3,333.

Law enforcement later spotted Valentine in Cambria, driving a rental car matching the description of the getaway vehicle. Valentine said he had rented a car because he had taken his own vehicle in for repairs. When asked why he was in Cambria that day, he said he was in the area checking out fishing spots during the day.

After the robbery, Valentine allegedly went to the Tachi Palace Hotel & Casino in Lemoore, where he played $822 worth of money. Officials at the casino said Valentine had gambled more than $340,000 since Jan. 1, losing close to $17,000.

At the hearing Tuesday, defense attorney Ken Cirisan asked whether Valentine’s $250,000 bail could be reduced, saying he was not a risk to flee or commit more crimes.

“Mr. Valentine’s not the type of person that will recidivate,” Cirisan said.

But San Luis Obispo Superior Court Judge Michael Duffy denied the request, meaning Valentine will likely remain in jail until his sentencing.

At the time of his arrest, Valentine was supporting a disabled daughter and two grandchildren with an income that came mostly from Social Security and a military retirement pension. He took home approximately $3,500 a month and had roughly $3,000 worth of expenses, according to court records.