Information Age haves and have-nots

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Date: Wed Jan 12 2000 - 11:05:32 PST

Last I heard, and that was 18 months ago, high-school-age baby sitters were
getting $11/hr in Palo Alto. Swanson coulda done that.

PALO ALTO, Calif., Jan 11 (Reuters) - A 71-year-old retired man -- apparently
desperate for cash to pay the skyrocketing rent on his Silicon Valley
apartment -- has been arrested after robbing two California banks at
gunpoint, police said Tuesday.

Police said they caught retired pharmacist Charles Swanson after he barged
into a Wells Fargo branch on Saturday wearing a ski mask and gloves, pointed
a loaded handgun at customers and made off with an undisclosed amount of

Witnesses followed Swanson in his getaway car -- a 10-year old Plymouth --
and alerted police, who arrested him after finding thousands of dollars, a
handgun, mask and gloves in the car.

Under questioning, Swanson allegedly admitted to robbing another Wells Fargo
bank branch in October, according to several news reports Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Palo Alto Police Detective Mike Denson said Swanson told police he
needed the money to make his rent in this Silicon Valley center where booming
Internet companies have helped to push housing costs through the roof.

"He's on a fixed income, and it didn't even rise to the level of his rent,"
Denson said. "His income was not sufficient to cover his expenses."

Swanson's neighbors at the Oak Creek Apartments said rents in the complex had
risen from several hundred dollars a month in the 1970s to anywhere from
$1,995 to as much as $3,100 for some two-bedroom units.

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