"I assumed I'd get caught eventually," Erica Anderson, who's serving 39 months in jail, tells PEOPLE
Credit: Grants Pass Police Department

The Oregon mother who made headlines for robbing a bank, then picking up her kids at school afterwards, tells PEOPLE she pulled the heist in order to pay her rent.

“I was about to be evicted from my apartment and just felt backed into a corner,” Erica Anderson, 37, of Grants Pass, says from prison. “It was an impulsive decision that has cost me.”

On Sept. 20, the mom of two, along with a neighbor, drove to a local bank – where Anderson handed the teller a note, demanding cash.

“The note instructed the teller to wait 15 minutes before calling law enforcement or else two kids wouldn’t make it home from school,” recalls Grants Pass Police Department Detective Sgt. Dennis Ward.

Anderson was arrested in her driveway not long after picking up her children at a local elementary school, then stopping by a convenience store to buy ice cream with a portion of the $1,300 she took from the bank.

She eventually pleaded guilty to charges of second-degree robbery, driving under the influence of intoxicants and reckless endangerment of her children. Nov 5, she was sentenced to 39 months in state prison.

“I’m okay with the sentence,” Anderson says. “I did rob a bank, after all.”

Drug Problem

A single mother who has battled drug addiction for years, Anderson claims her life started going downhill seven months ago, when she was laid off from her job in the health-care industry. Unable to find work, she eventually drifted back to drugs, traces of which police found in her blood shortly after her arrest.

“It’s pretty terrifying to rob a bank,” says Anderson, who will participate in a drug-rehab program while in prison. “I assumed I’d get caught eventually. But I just wanted to pay my rent and then get out of town with my girls.”

During her incarceration, Anderson’s two daughters will be staying with a family member. The girls, who are 7 and 8, will be allowed periodic visits with their mother, who recently told them why she will be spending the next few years in jail.

“I’ve explained to them that I made a desperate act that wasn’t the right decision,” Anderson says. “Being separated from them has been the worst part of all this. It’s always been the three of us.”