Final Conspirator in St. Mary’s County Bank Robbery Pleads Guilty
Bank Manager and Her Two Minor Children Were Kidnapped during the Robbery
Greenbelt, Maryland - Joseph Franklin Brown, Jr., age 35, of Great Mills, Maryland, pleaded guilty today to his participation in the September 24, 2008 robbery of $169,900 from a bank in St. Mary’s County in which the bank manager and her two minor children were kidnapped from their residence, announced United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein.
According to his plea agreement, Brown earned his living by selling illegal drugs. He started a relationship in 2005 with co-defendant Quinita Ennis, who knew of Brown’s illegal business and that he was a convicted felon, prohibited from possessing a gun. On June 20, 2008, at Brown’s request and using his money, Ennis bought a 9 mm rifle from a gun shop in Lexington Park. Ennis gave Brown the rifle. Brown also possessed a 12 gauge shotgun.
In the summer of 2008, as Brown’s income from selling drugs dwindled, Brown and co-defendant William Johnson devised a plan to rob a bank in California, Maryland. Brown and his conspirators observed the whereabouts of the bank’s manager, determining the time and route the manager used to leave her minor children in the care of another, and the procedures used by bank employees to open the bank.
On September 24, 2008, Ennis used her car to drive Brown and Johnson to the bank manager’s residence. Wearing masks and camouflage clothing, and brandishing the 9 mm rifle Ennis had purchased, Brown and Johnson kidnapped the manager and her two minor children, and drove the family to St. Mary’s County in the manager’s vehicle. Brown then got out of the vehicle and Ennis picked him up.
Johnson ordered the manager to drive to the bank and obtain funds from the bank, while he held the manager’s minor son hostage in her vehicle. The manager’s daughter was released. Johnson took $169,900 from the bank manager and forced the manager to drive him to an elementary school, where the manager and her son were released. Johnson drove the manager’s vehicle to a pharmacy in California, Maryland where he abandoned the vehicle. Brown and Ennis picked him up and Ennis drove them back to Brown’s house. Ennis received approximately $30,000 of the stolen bank funds, which she stored in a safe at her home.
Later that evening, Brown, Ennis, Johnson and co-defendant Edwin Jones traveled to casinos in New Jersey where they conducted money transactions and gambled tens of thousands of dollars from the bank robbery.
Following the robbery, Brown and Johnson buried the rifle used in the robbery behind a shed in the backyard of Brown’s residence. They purchased safes and buried the safes and $84,000 in the backyard. They attempted to burn camouflage clothing, sunglasses, a stocking hat and gloves used in the robbery.
Also, at Brown’s request, on October 1, 2008, Ennis gave cash to a friend who agreed to purchase plane tickets for Brown, Ennis and Johnson to travel to Las Vegas. The day before and at Brown’s request, Ennis wired $9,000 in stolen bank robbery funds to Brown in North Carolina. Brown told Ennis they would resettle in North Carolina.
Police searched Brown’s home on October 3, 2008 and seized the shotgun and rifle, safes, and $84,000 buried in the backyard. Alerted to the police activity, Ennis removed the remainder of her share of the stolen funds from her safe and kept it in her purse when she went to work. Police arrested Ennis at work, where they found approximately $16,105 in cash in her purse. Brown and Johnson were arrested in North Carolina, in possession of $7,045 in cash as well as numerous items purchased with bank robbery proceeds.
As part of his plea agreement, Brown has agreed to forfeit his shotgun and rifle, $169,900 and items purchased from the bank robbery proceeds.
Brown faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison for conspiracy to commit armed bank robbery; 25 years in prison for armed bank robbery; a minimum of seven years and a maximum of life in prison consecutive to any other sentence for brandishing a gun during a crime of violence; and, a maximum of 10 years in prison for being a convicted felon in possession of a gun, or if deemed an armed career criminal, a minimum of 15 years and maximum of life in prison. U.S. District Judge Deborah K. Chasanow scheduled sentencing for September 21, 2009 at 10:00 a.m.
Quinita Jessie Ennis, age 31, of Lexington Park, Maryland pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit armed bank robbery, armed bank robbery and making a false statement in the purchase of a gun. Judge Chasanow scheduled her sentencing for June 1, 2009 at 9:00 a.m.
William Cordell Johnson, age 38, of Port Republic, Maryland pleaded guilty and faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison for conspiracy to commit armed bank robbery, 25 years in prison for bank robbery, life in prison for using a gun and 10 years in prison for being a felon in possession of a gun. Judge Chasanow scheduled his sentencing for July 20, 2009 at 2:00 p.m.
Edwin Jonathan Jones, age 41, of Lexington Park, Maryland, pleaded guilty to being an accessory after the fact to the armed bank robbery. Judge Chasanow scheduled his sentencing for June 1, 2009 at 10:00 a.m.
United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein thanked St. Mary’s County Sheriff Timothy K. Cameron and the St. Mary’s County Bureau of Criminal Investigation; St. Mary’s County State’s Attorney Richard D. Fritz and his office; Calvert County Sheriff Michael Evans and his office and Calvert County State’s Attorney Laura L. Martin and her office; the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; and the Maryland State Police for their assistance in the investigation and prosecution. Mr. Rosenstein commended Assistant United States Attorneys Steven M. Dunne and Stuart A. Berman, who prosecuted the case.