Last of 25 Violent Bank Robbers Sentenced to Federal Prison
|U.S. Attorney’s Office December 18, 2013|
HOUSTON—The final of 25 convicted in two separate but similar bank robbery cases that gripped the Houston and surrounding areas has now been ordered to prison, announced United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson, along with Stephen L. Morris, special agent in charge of the FBI in Houston. The two groups were ultimately held accountable in court for approximately 34 robberies of the area banks in 2010-2011.
“The prosecution of these cases should send a strong message that the penalties for robbing banks in a serial fashion will be swift and severe,” said Magidson. “Whatever criminal role is played, be it getaway driver, lookout, firearms supplier, enforcer, or shooter, you will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of federal law.”
A total of 11 defendants were convicted in the first case. They were responsible for approximately 16 intimidating robberies inside grocery stores, including the August 4, 2011 robbery of Wells Fargo Bank in Sugar Land, during which an off-duty Harris County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) sergeant was shot. Anthony Demonde Nowlin and Shelton McGowen, both 24, pleaded guilty before a trial, set to begin May 28, 2013. During jury selection, seven opted to enter guilty pleas—Derrick Williams, 28; Marcus Rosemond Tarpley, 32; Reginald Mosley, 37; Joel Keon Jackson, 33; Hakim Ibn Ahmad, 31; Alonzo Horace Harris, 37; and Patrick Wayne Simmons, 29. Calvin Wesley Gray, 34, pleaded guilty the morning of opening statements, while David Dwayne Holmes, 34, pleaded guilty following the government’s opening remarks and with a witness about to take the stand.
Today, U.S. District Judge David Hittner sentenced Holmes to a total sentence of 346 months in federal prison to be followed by five years of supervised release. In October, Mosley—identified as the shooter of the off-duty deputy—received a sentence of 525 months. Simmons, Tarpley, and Harris each were sentenced to 480 months in prison, while Ahmad and Gray will serve 444 and 300 months in prison, respectively. Nowlin was ordered to serve 144 months, while McGowen, Jackson, and Williams were convicted of one count of conspiracy and will each serve a sentence of 60 months.
“No one goes into a grocery store expecting to be confronted by a group of masked gunman carrying assault rifles. This is absolutely unacceptable in our community,” said Morris. “Today’s sentencing places the final member of this dangerous crew behind bars and demonstrates that anyone playing any role in these crimes will be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”
During the course of the sentencings, additional evidence and testimony was presented, including statements from the wounded deputy and another victim. The deputy commented upon his actions and that he would not change anything he did that day. He testified that he saw that something was going to happen and that it was his obligation as a law enforcement officer to step up and act. He further noted the effect the shooting has had on him, his family, and the sheriff and his family.
These defendants were part of a sophisticated criminal organization that planned and executed violent takeover style bank robberies of banks inside grocery stores. The conspiracy began on May 4, 2007, and ended with the arrests of some of the men on September 16, 2011. They would target banks and credit unions that were located in grocery stores, using force, violence, and intimidation to rob them. During the robberies, the defendants wore dark clothing, gloves, and material over their faces and were armed with semi-automatic pistols, shotguns, and Uzi-style firearms to intimidate the bank employees.
The second case involved a separate group of violent armed robbers that have been held responsible by the court for 18 incidents, including the Pearland Chase branch bank on December 31, 2010, which resulted in a nearly six-hour standoff with law enforcement.
Larry Smith, 37, and Raymond Tierra Johnson, 32, were convicted by a federal jury in March 2013 after five days of trial, while Jeremy Benton, 22; Glenn Bonner, 42; Gregory Wayne Ferguson, 21; Arlington Davis Wilkes aka AD, 24; Carl Ray Turner, Jr. aka CT, 27; Edward Johnson, 29; John Berley Scott, aka Fresh, 32; Derrick Lashon Paley, aka Crybaby, 35; Michael Maurice Wilson, Jr., aka Blue/Mikey Poo, 26; Roderick Marshall Beagle, 41; Michael Dushon Duncan, aka Mikey, 21; and Kelvin Dewayne Thomas, aka Little Kevin, 23, each had previously entered guilty pleas.
U.S. District Judge Gray Miller sentenced Smith, found to be the leader of that group, to 1,080 months in federal prison—90 years. Johnson was considered to be the “muscle” of the crew and, on several occasions, assaulted and/or pistol-whipped victims indiscriminately. He will serve 744 months—62 years in federal prison. Bonner forced a victim to place a 911 call and subsequently told officers during the standoff that he was going to start to kill victims within minutes if his demands were not met. Judge Miller imposed a total sentence for him of 257 months. Benton will serve 235 months, while Scott and Wilson received respective sentences of 271 and 288 months. Wilkes was handed a sentence of 120 months for his role in the conspiracy. Ferguson received a sentence of 12 months and a day, while Edward Johnson and Turner each received an 84-month sentence. Thomas, Duncan, Paley, and Beagle received sentences of 70, 207, 231, and 220 months, respectively.
This 14-man conspiracy involved the organized recruitment of co-conspirators, who would engage in advanced coordination and planning. Evidence at trial indicated the conspirators used lookouts during robberies and used stolen or “hot” cars as getaway vehicles to commit the offenses. Most bank robberies were effected through the brandishing and firing of firearms during the course of the robbery to ensure compliance with their demands. Testimony revealed some of the violence witnessed by those in the banks and the threats made to gain compliance.
One victim specifically mentioned the individual trauma she has experienced and admits suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome as a result of the horrific event. Another victim, also a witness at the trial, described the event as a life changing experience. That victim had been beaten in the course of the robbery and was off work for a great deal of time. Both victims also reported they have been unable to return to the banking industry for work and have even been unable to enter a bank since the violent event. The government also provided evidence to the court that during the course of this bank robbery conspiracy, more than 80 victims have been identified.
“Our office will continue to work with the FBI Bank Robbery Task Force and its state and local partners and will utilize all available resources to secure both prosecution and stiff sentences for the perpetrators of such crimes,” Magidson added.
All 25 men will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.
Both cases were investigated by the FBI Bank Robbery Task Force and included personnel from the FBI; HCSO; police departments in Houston, Pearland, Friendswood, Baytown, and Pasadena; Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office; Harris County Precinct 4 Constable’s Office; District Attorney’s Offices in Harris and Brazoria Counties; and Crimestoppers. The cases were both prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Suzanne Elmilady and Kebharu H. Smith.