Former Bank Teller Convicted in Three Bank Robberies
|U.S. Attorney’s Office March 26, 2014|
PHOENIX—Joel Leon Thomas, Jr., 23, of El Mirage, Arizona, was found guilty of three counts of conspiracy to commit bank robbery, two counts of aid and abet armed bank robbery, one count of aid and abet bank robbery, and two counts of using a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence, by a federal jury in Phoenix. The case was tried before U.S. District Judge David G. Campbell from March 12-24, 2014. Thomas is being held in custody after trial. Sentencing is set before Judge Campbell on July 7, 2014.
The evidence at trial showed that Thomas, a bank teller at the time of the robberies, provided inside information to his co-conspirators about bank security measures and bank layouts to craft plans to rob three banks in January and February 2012. The conspiracy targeted banks Thomas worked at in the Surprise, Sun City, and Peoria areas. Thomas orchestrated two bank robberies at gunpoint, and in one of those robberies, he posed as a victim bank teller as he loaded $246,000 from the vault into a duffel bag for the armed gunman, his friend. In a third bank robbery, the conspiracy recruited two homeless men to commit a “note job” where they demanded money from a victim bank teller inside a busy grocery store and turned over the money to Thomas and other conspirators. After obtaining search warrants, police seized approximately $150,000 in stolen bank money, firearms, ammunition, bank robbery demand notes, and a hand-drawn diagram of a bank from the residences and cars of Thomas and others charged in the conspiracy. Five others were charged and pleaded guilty in the conspiracy.
The jury specifically found that in two of the bank robberies, a co-conspirator moved a victim bank employee against his consent and that the co-conspirator brandished guns during the robbery.
A conviction for conspiracy to commit bank robbery carries a maximum penalty of five years, a $250,000 fine, or both. A conviction for aid and abet armed bank robbery carries a minimum penalty of 10 years and a maximum penalty of 25 years, a $250,000 fine, or both. A conviction for aid and abet bank robbery carries a maximum penalty of 20 years, a $250,000 fine, or both. A first conviction for use of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence contains a minimum penalty of seven years in prison to a maximum penalty of life in prison, and a second conviction carries a minimum penalty of 25 years to a maximum penalty of life in prison, and both must be served consecutively to any prison term Thomas receives for the other crimes.
The investigation in this case was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the FBI’s Bank Robbery Task Force, the Peoria Police Department, the Surprise Police Department, and the Tempe Police Department. The prosecution was handled by Jennifer E. Green and Tracy Van Buskirk, Assistant U.S. Attorneys, District of Arizona, Phoenix.