Sandeep Kaur was born in Chandigarh on November 11, 1989. When she was 11, her family moved to San Jose, California, which has a sizeable Indian population. After the 9/11 attacks in 2001, Kaur says she was targeted by bullies in school and called a terrorist. Her brother and she started skipping school so they were sent to a boarding school in the Eastern Himalayas.
In America, Kaur and her brother were not allowed to watch TV, have phones or even friends. If they did anything wrong, they were beaten with a stick.
At 14, Kaur’s mother fell sick and was hospitalized. This made Kaur want to become a nurse. She graduated from high school early, started college at 15 and was a licensed nurse at 19. She quickly started to earn $6000/pm but couldn’t really spend it because she still lived with her strict mother. After the stock market crash, Kaur invested in insurance banks and made $200,000.
Kaur started to wear dresses under hospital scrubs and began to party and date boys. At 20 she moved to Sacramento to get a Bachelor’s degree in nursing.
On her 21st birthday, Kaur and a female cousin lied to their mothers and went to Las Vegas. The ‘city of sin’ with its casinos, malls and hectic pace, drew her in. She fell in love with brand Gucci. The cousins bought high heels and short dresses and headed to the casinos. At her first table, Kaur won $4,000 and became hooked, especially to baccarat.
Kaur started to fly to Vegas casinos monthly with her brother and friends. After a few visits, everything was comped for her – hotel rooms and all the perks.
Kaur quit nursing to focus on gambling. But like everything that goes up, Kaur’s luck came down. She began to lose big sums of money, once losing $60,000 in three hands. She used her investment money to fund her gambling and finally even took money from creditors and lost that too. She moved back in with her mother to avoid creditors.
In December 2012, a warrant was issued for her arrest as she hadn’t paid the casino what she owed them.
At home, Kaur still lived in pressure. Her parents were divorced but they kept it a secret. Her father pretended to work for “companies” when he was a cab driver. Her mother tried to fix arranged marriages for her but according to Kaur, “What guy doesn’t have the balls to tell their family they want to get married on their own?”
Kaur finally did get married and received an allowance of $1,000 each week from her husband but gambled it all away in Vegas.
By April 2014, Kaur’s car had been impounded and her marriage was over. One day as she filled gas in her car, two men approached Kaur and demanded she pay them $35,000 for a $25,000 loan. According to Kaur, they threatened her family if she was unable to pay. No one was ready to give her a loan to pay these men off so Kaur robbed her first bank eleven days later.
She continued on a robbery spree. Wearing designer clothes and her trademark sunglasses, she’d hand a bank employee a note saying she had a bomb.
All this ended up in a high speed police chase as Sandeep tried to get away from the law and a two-hour-long stand-off. When cornered, she begged them to just shoot her and was lured away from the car by police lying about taking her to a hospital.
Her mother still pretends that no one knows about Kaur’s crime despite the international attention it gained. No one from her family attends her court hearings. And Kaur is focusing on helping others.
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