From banker to bandit to crusader

From banker to bandit to crusader

Kevin Pinto, an Indian origin Canadian investment adviser in Toronto, robbed banks during his lunch hour break to fuel a gambling addiction. Out on parole, he’s now campaigning to create awareness about the ills of gambling.

kevin pinto

Kevin Pinto surprised the Ontario police when he turned himself in
after a six-year spree of holding up banks around Toronto. A well-paid financial adviser who dined and dressed well, he certainly didn’t fit the bill of a desperate bandit. “The last thing you expect in a bank robber is someone who works in banking,” a police officer said after his 2008 arrest.

A former Bay Street financier and vice-president of the company, Pinto pulled in an annual salary of almost a quarter of a million dollars. But that apparently, was not enough to fuel his gambling addiction. From 2002 to October 2008 when he finally gave himself up, he had held up 10 banks in and around Toronto, using his lunch break to pull the hold-ups, getting the tellers to part with as little as $225 in one case and as much as $9,600 in another. He had stolen over $35,000 in all. But his gambling debts had crossed $100,000.

After eluding the police for so many years, luck ran out on Pinto when the
police posted three shots of him caught on the security cameras. He was nicknamed the ‘‘Exchange Bandit” by the Canadian police because he would engage the teller in a conversation over the current American exchange rate before slipping in a hold-up note that said “Don’t do anything stupid”, Pinto was handed out a six-year conviction in November 2009. His case, because of his impeccable background, educational and professional profile got a large dose of media coverage.
At the sentencing, his lawyer argued that his client was a “man of faith” and a devoted member of the church who was in need of therapy, not an additional prison term.

Born in Bahrain, Kevin Pinto moved with his family to Canada in 1987. He graduated from the University of Western Ontario in psychology and sociology. In an interview to the Canadian broadcast station Metro Morning recently,  Pinto, 41, who is out on parole serving the last part of his conviction, said he wants to put his past behind and advocate for gambling awareness. Describing a gambling problem as an “invisible, silent disease,” Pinto said what  started out as a habit at university in the late nineties consumed him completely to a point where he was betting almost $1000 a day on sport, putting calls to bookies as far off as Costa Rica and
Jamaica, or placing bets online. His two-year marriage also crumbled.

“The addiction is progressive, very similar to cocaine addiction. At the time of the first heist, I was in a desperate place… you don’t think the process through and its consequences… it’s all about the desperation to get money,” he said.

Alcohol and drug abuse are easy to detect, but the compulsion to gamble is rarely seen as an addiction. A severe gambling problem is not to be taken lightly, Pinto said. Prison forced him to get his gambling obsession under control, and, believe it or not, he battled withdrawl symptoms.