The FBI says the money was laundered through a Canton church’s bank account.

BOSTON (AP) – A minister from Maine was sentenced Thursday to 6 years in federal prison for committing a three-state spree of bank robberies in which he told tellers he had a gun and made off with a total of more than $13,000.

Jerry Hayes, 53, of Hartford, Maine, was arrested last May 14 after robbing a bank in Haverhill. He was laundering the proceeds of the robberies through an account in the name of the Shema First Apostolic Assembly in Canton, Maine, the FBI said. He also used money from the account to buy a handgun found in his car at the time of his arrest, authorities said.

Hayes started his spree of five robberies on March 31, 2003, when he entered a Windham, Maine, bank and handed a note to a teller in which he said he had a gun and warned her not to set off any alarms. Hayes made off with almost $2,000 in that robbery.

He then robbed a Portsmouth, N.H., bank on April 8, making off with nearly $3,000.

Just two days later, Hayes walked into a Danvers bank, handed a teller a note saying he was armed, and made off with more than $4,200, authorities said.

The spree continued on May 2, when Hayes entered a Quincy bank, handed a teller a note warning that he had a gun, and made off with $1,650.

He was finally arrested after robbing the Haverhill bank, during which threatened to take a hostage, and making off with $2,550.

The teller placed a dye pack in the bag with the money, which exploded as Hayes left the bank. Hayes dropped the bag and was followed by a private citizen who alerted police. He was arrested in Groveland.

Hayes pleaded guilt in September. In addition to his prison sentence, Hayes was sentenced to three years of probation.

AP-ES-04-08-04 2304EDT

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