Armed Bank Robber Sentenced to 32 Years in Prison

Participated in Violent Montgomery County Bank Robbery Which Netted $80,000

September 4, 2008

Greenbelt, Maryland - U.S. District Judge Peter J. Messitte sentenced Richol Griner, age 31, to 32 years in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, after he was convicted by a federal jury on June 16, 2008 of conspiracy to commit bank robbery, bank robbery and using a firearm during a crime of violence, announced United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein. Judge Messitte enhanced Griner’s sentence upon finding that he was a career criminal based on previous convictions for assault, resisting arrest, firearms violations and attempted escape.

On August 29, 2008, Judge Messitte sentenced co-defendant Giovanni Bell, age 45, of Silver Spring, to life in federal prison without parole under the federal “three strikes and you are out” law. Bell was convicted at the same trial of conspiracy to commit bank robbery, bank robbery, using a firearm during a crime of violence, being a felon in possession of a firearm and being a violent felon in possession of body armor. Judge Messitte also sentenced co-defendant Jude Eligwe, age 23, of Lanham, Maryland, to four years in prison, followed by three years of supervised release for conspiracy to commit bank robbery. Eligwe, a Nigerian native, is expected to be deported after serving his federal sentence.

According to evidence presented at the two week trial, the defendants conspired to rob the Commerce Bank at 350 E. Gude Drive in Rockville, where Eligwe was employed.

Witnesses testified that in the days prior to the robbery, Eligwe informed Griner about Commerce Bank’s vault mechanisms. On February 19, 2007, Bell and two co-conspirators drove to Commerce Bank where Eligwe unlocked the front door of the bank so the robbers could enter. Bell and the two co-conspirators held the bank employees hostage while they waited for the vault to open. They brandished their weapons and repeatedly pistol whipped a bank employee. Griner served as a look-out during the robbery, and more than $80,000 was stolen from the bank.

The defendants remain in federal custody.

United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein praised the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Montgomery County Police Department for their investigative work in this case. Mr. Rosenstein thanked Assistant U.S. Attorneys Deborah Johnston and Emily Glatfelter, who are prosecuting the case.


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