The Bandit true story reveals that the real Gilbert Galvan robbed almost 50 banks over a period of three years, a Canadian record. At his height, he committed 21 robberies in a single year. "I didn't plan to do 21 robberies in a year. It just worked out that way," Galvan told CBC News. He committed robberies in every Canadian province except Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland.
Yes. A Bandit fact-check confirms that after escaping from jail and making it across the border to Canada, Galvan eventually met a Canadian woman named Janice (renamed Andrea Hudson and portrayed by Elisha Cuthbert in the movie). He told her nothing about his past, nor did he tell her his real name. They got married and settled in Pembroke, Ontario, which is roughly an hour and a half northwest of Ottawa. They lived in a modest home and had two children.
Janice believed her husband worked for a Calgary-based company as a courier of stocks and bonds. She would often drive him to the Pembroke Airport and bid him farewell as he embarked on one of his frequent "business trips." -CBC News
Yes. In Canada, he went by the name Robert Whiteman. His wife, Janice Whiteman, knew him by his alias, not his real name. An American citizen, Galvan had a long criminal record in the United States under his actual name, Gilbert William Galvan Jr. His offenses, which began when he was just 17, included armed robbery, attempted robbery, disorderly conduct, and obstructing a peace officer.
In researching how accurate is Bandit, we learned that Gilbert Galvan committed his robberies by flying into a city, robbing one or more banks, and then flying home. He would tell his wife he had to go on a "business trip." "He would travel first class all the time," said Officer George Snyder, who is portrayed by Nestor Carbonell in the Bandit movie. Eventually, Galvan built up 160,000 frequent flyer miles with Air Canada's Aeroplan program. The movie's title Bandit comes from a shortened version of his nickname 'The Flying Bandit', which was given to him by journalist Ed Arnold, who broke the story and co-authored the 1996 true crime novel The Flying Bandit with Robert Knuckle that provided much of the basis for the film. -CBC News
Yes. The Bandit true story confirms that he hid his two handguns in his luggage. He knew that his checked luggage would not be x-rayed on domestic flights, therefore his weapons would not be discovered. He carried his disguises in his suit bag.
Yes. "He would be impeccably dressed in the best suits," said Officer George Snyder. "As he approached a bank, that's what you would see, a businessman carrying an attaché case, impeccably dressed." Like in the Bandit movie, the true story corroborates that he would often wear work clothes and other disguises over his suit. After committing the robbery, he would tear off the work clothes and his facial disguise. It's true that he would sometimes walk back toward the bank in his suit and ask the police what was going on while carrying a briefcase full of stolen cash. -CBC News
In real life, Gilbert Galvan (portrayed by Josh Duhamel in the movie) heard about the notorious fence Tommy Craig (played by Mel Gibson) and wanted to meet him. They eventually became very close friends and would fly all across Canada together. Craig never admitted that they were partners in crime. When asked that very question by CBC News, he responded with a smirk, "Oh, no, no, no, no. No, no, you can't say that."
According to his friend Tommy Craig, aka the Fat Man, Galvan, then known by his alias Robert Whiteman, was well liked. "He was just an out-and-out great guy. Everybody loved the man," said Craig. -CBC News
Yes. On one occasion, she told him she needed five dollars to pay for a taxi. He told her to get it out of his pants pocket. When she reached in and pulled out his money clip, she saw 18 one thousand dollar bills. "She just about had a heart attack," recalled Galvan. He lied to her and told her that it was from two paychecks and a bonus. She told him, "You gotta put it in the bank," which he then did. -CBC News
Yes. In answering the question, "Is Bandit accurate?" we learned that after finding success robbing banks, Gilbert Galvan started to rob jewelry stores too. With a partner standing guard, Galvan (aka the Flying Bandit) would clean out the cases with the most valuable jewelry. Like in the movie, Tommy Craig (portrayed by Mel Gibson) would help him fence the stolen jewelry. Galvan robbed half a dozen Birks jewelry stores. His biggest payday came in Vancouver, stealing $1.2 million in jewelry from a Birks store. It was the biggest armed robbery the city had ever seen.
The Flying Bandit was caught because of a mistake made by his partner. After a jewelry heist, his partner left behind the disguises and a sawed-off shotgun. The latter was traced back to the Fat Man (played by Mel Gibson in the film), a well-known fence in Ottawa. The police, including Officer George Snyder, began looking into all of the Fat Man's associates at the time, and there was no mistaking his relationship with Gilbert Galvan, who was using the alias Robert Whiteman. Though he seemed an unlikely suspect, the police put Whiteman under surveillance in his hometown of Pembroke.
When the police began looking into the pattern of Robert Whiteman's business trips, they discovered it was a perfect match with the jewelry store robberies. On June 12, 1987, Whiteman boarded a plane and flew to London, Ontario where he robbed a bank for $22,000. He chartered a plane back home to Pembroke where his pregnant wife and child were waiting for him at the airport, but so were the police. "As he walked through the airport, two members of our tactical squad passed by him, one on either side, and grabbed him and put him down on the ground," said Officer Snyder. On his person was a briefcase filled with $22,000, two guns, a wig, false skin, and a removable mustache. -CBC News
"She was stunned," recalled Galvan. "She thought it might have been a practical joke or something at first. This is a mistake. That's my husband. You obviously don't mean to arrest him."
After Gilbert Galvan's arrest, his wife confronted him with regard to his lies. "She comes in and she sits down, and she looks at me and she goes, 'Your name's not Robert Whiteman. You're not even Canadian,' and I said, 'Well, yeah, yeah, that's true.'" Galvan didn't admit to having remorse but said "there's a lot of feelings" and that he loved Janice. He said that he "provided." "To me, that was my definition of a good husband," said Galvan. -CBC News
In researching the Bandit true story, we learned that his wife divorced him several years after his arrest but still visited occasionally with their children (pictured below).
Galvan pled guilty to a total of 59 armed robberies that yielded him $2.5 million. He was given a 20-year prison sentence. He began serving his prison time at the Collins Bay Penitentiary in Kingston, Ontario. -CBC News
Galvan was transferred to a U.S. prison in 1994 to serve the remainder of his sentence for crimes he had previously committed in Wisconsin. After being released early in 1998, he eventually decided to start robbing banks again. He was caught in 2001 after robbing the same Illinois bank twice. Galvan pled guilty to both bank robberies and was given 15 years. He served nearly 14 and was released in December 2014.
In May of the following year, he walked into an Illinois supermarket and tried to walk out with a shopping cart full of almost $1,000 worth of booze. He was stopped by an employee and fled. Two days later, he tried to steal alcohol and other items from the same store and was arrested by police in the parking lot. He was put back in jail on four felony counts of retail theft, a disheveled and aging shadow of the notorious criminal he used to be. -Chicago Tribune