A parolee and serial bank robber has been eluding police since June 2015, when a security camera caught him leaving the scene of a robbery at a home in Orange County.
Though police have come close to catching the wanted man, he’s managed to dodge capture.
But now, in addition to the California Department of Corrections, police in Tustin and Carlsbad, California; Park City, Utah; and Boulder, Colorado; the FBI has joined the search.
Daniel David Courson, 45, is known as the “floppy hat bandit,” the “boonie hat bandit,” and most recently, the “sneaky bicyclist bandit,” monikers gained from methods he’s used to rob banks.
Police believe he’s robbed at least seven banks since May 2017, with one in March ending in a high-speed pursuit in Colorado that became so dangerous that officials called off the chase. At one point, the driver tossed a backpack containing the stolen cash and a black pellet gun.
“Just from this pursuit, it really kind of outlined how desperate he is,” Tustin Police Det. Ryan Newton said. “The thing that scares me is that he’s going to do something so reckless and put the public and law enforcement’s lives in danger … and I would hate to see that happen.”
Since then, authorities believe he’s fled the Colorado area and is re-establishing himself in another state.
Courson has a knack for fitting in and has been able quickly build a new life in several middle-class neighborhoods using false names. In recent years, he’s worked as a guitar teacher, a microbiology teacher at a career college, and a physician’s assistant.
“I am very confident he’s already reinvented himself,” Newton said. “He’s been able to get a new ID, new social (security number), worked his way into some … upper middle-class area where he could fit in.”
Despite his societal success, Courson’s infatuation with high-stakes gambling led to the bank robberies, Newton said.
“He’s one of these ‘live on the seat of your pants’ type of guys,” Newton said. “And he was smart. He got kicked out of several casinos for card counting.”
While Courson has been eluding authorities, he’s left a string of broken-hearted women in towns across the country, starting in Park City, Utah, and moving east into Boulder, Colorado. The 6-foot 2-inch, athletic 185-pound bank robber wastes no time in finding a serious girlfriend — and at one time an engagement — in each location. He mostly meets women through online dating.
“He needs somebody to hide behind, to use, as it helps him assimilate,” Newton said. “It’s more normal to be in a relationship, you know, and (he) can use her for credit card stuff.”
One previous girlfriend said Courson convinced her to allow him to drive her car, citing an engine problem with his stolen truck.
“I was surprised at how many women he’d gone out with in Salt Lake/Park City,” Newton said.
Friends and family members say Courson is extremely convincing, Newton said.
“To them, he probably looks like a pretty good prospect,” Newton said. “He’s in shape. He doesn’t have a lot tying him down… I can see how that might be appealing to some.”
Courson has used many names, including Adam Scott Hopkins, Max Taylor, Scott E. Taylor, Max Robert Taylor, Mark Pavlik, and Jeremy Penrod. The latter two are names of deceased children born the same year as Courson.
“It’s all curious with him,” Newton said.
Newton and the Tustin Police Department began chasing Courson in 2015. He was on parole after serving eight years in prison for a string of 19 bank robberies in Southern California when he burglarized a Tustin home and made off with high-end artwork, jewelry, collectible coins, and checkbooks.
Police recovered some of the items, including an expensive diamond ring with sentimental value for the owner, who thought he and Courson were friends until he saw video surveillance footage of the theft.
The homeowner was undergoing cancer treatment when the two met at a San Diego hospital where Courson worked as a physician’s assistant. They became close, sharing stories about their kids and discussing coin collecting.
“He looks like somebody you’d go hang out with,” Newton said, describing Courson as “normal, friendly.”
When police seized his computer following the burglary, they found written entries where Courson had mused about how he nearly escaped prison by faking an injury, his plans to rob banks, and how he would get away.
“He was thinking, ‘I’m never going to get caught unless I have some overzealous detective,’” Newton said. “I’m thinking, ‘Well, I’ve been dedicated to finding this guy and I can’t wait to do it.’”
Anyone with information on Courson is asked to call Det. Ryan Newton at 714-573-3240.