Four Charged Federally with 14 Bank Robberies in Three Separate Indictments
The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced that four individuals have been charged by a federal grand jury in Scranton with robbery or attempted robbery of 14 banks in three separate indictments filed late yesterday in the U.S. District Court in Scranton.
According to U.S. Attorney Peter Smith, the robberies, which took place over an eight month period between June 2014 and January 2015 in Luzerne, Lackawanna, Carbon and Schuylkill Counties, were investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Pennsylvania State Police, with the assistance of the Police Departments of Hazleton, Rush Township, Dickson City, Scranton, Jenkins Township, Plains Township, Ashley, Hanover Township and Wilkes-Barre, as well as the Luzerne and Wyoming County District Attorney’s Offices.
Sean Quinn, Supervisory Senior Resident Agent in the Scranton FBI office, stated “The FBI is committed to protecting the citizens from violent crime such as this scourge of armed bank robberies our area has seen over the past year. We will devote any resources necessary to combat these crimes and the people who would commit them. In these cases, honest citizens got involved to help determine who committed these violent crimes and I thank and commend them.”
The defendants and the charges:
Timothy Fenster, age 29, of Plains, is charged in an indictment with seven bank robberies or attempted bank robberies and one robbery of a store, as follows:
- armed robbery of Community Bank, Church Street, Laceyville, on December 17, 2014;
- armed robbery of M&T Bank, Sans Souci Parkway, Hanover Township, on December 22, 2014;
- armed robbery of First National Community Bank (FNCB), North River Street, Plains Township, on January 14, 2015;
- armed robbery of M&T Bank, Coal Street Branch, Wilkes-Barre, on January 22, 2015;
- armed robbery of Community Bank, SR 6, Meshoppen, on January 26, 2015;
- armed robbery of Family Dollar, South Main Street, Ashley Borough, on January 28, 2015;
- attempted robbery of First Keystone Community Bank, Main Street, Plymouth, on January 29, 2015;
- attempted robbery of FNCB, Old Boston Road, Jenkins Township, on January 29, 2015.
The maximum penalty under the federal statute for each armed bank robbery is 25 years’ imprisonment. The attempted bank robberies and the robbery of the store each carry a maximum sentence of 20 years’ imprisonment. Fenster also faces a term of supervised release following imprisonment, and a fine if convicted. He is in custody.
Lee Sokalsky, age 34, of Scranton, is charged in an indictment with six bank robberies or attempted bank robberies, as follows:
- robbery of First National Community Bank, West Broad Street, Hazleton, on June 19, 2014;
- robbery of NBT Bank, Main Street, Dickson City, on July 25, 2014;
- attempted robbery of FNCB, West Broad Street, Hazleton, on August 26, 2014;
- robbery of Mauch Chunk Trust Bank, Claremont Avenue, Tamaqua, on August 26, 2014;
- robbery of National Penn Bank, South Hunter Highway, Drums, on September 20, 2014; and
- armed robbery of M&T Bank, Laurel Mall, Hazle Township, on October 10, 2014.
The maximum penalty under the federal statute for the armed bank robbery of the M&T Bank is 25 years’ imprisonment. The maximum penalty for each of the other robberies or for attempted bank robbery is 20 years’ imprisonment. Sokalsky faces a term of supervised release following imprisonment, and a fine if convicted. He is in custody.
David Weaver, age 40, and Crystal Serfass, age 30, both of Junedale, Carbon County, are charged in an indictment with conspiring to commit armed bank robbery and armed bank robbery of the Jim Thorpe Neighborhood Bank, Penn Forest Township, on November 18, 2014. Weaver is also charged with use of a firearm and obstruction of justice. Serfass is additionally charged with obstruction of justice, illegal firearms possession, possession of methamphetamine, and making false statements to an FBI agent.
The maximum penalty under the federal statutes underlying the charges filed against Weaver is life imprisonment and, for Serfass, 86 years’ imprisonment. Both face a term of supervised release following imprisonment, and a fine if convicted. Weaver is in custody. FBI Agents arrested Crystal Serfass this afternoon in Junedale on the charges. Serfass will be scheduled to appear for an initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Karoline Mehalchick in the U.S. District Court in Scranton.
Prosecution of the three cases is assigned to Assistant U.S. Attorney John Gurganus.
Indictments and Criminal Informations are only allegations. All persons charged are presumed to be innocent unless and until found guilty in court.
A sentence following a finding of guilty is imposed by the Judge after consideration of the applicable federal sentencing statutes and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines.
Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the Judge is also required to consider and weigh a number of factors, including the nature, circumstances and seriousness of the offense; the history and characteristics of the defendant; and the need to punish the defendant, protect the public and provide for the defendant’s educational, vocational and medical needs. For these reasons, the statutory maximum penalty for the offense is not an accurate indicator of the potential sentence for a specific defendant.