News and Press Releases

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

WEDNESDAY - June 11, 2008

CALABASH MAN SENTENCED TO 25 YEARS IN PRISON FOR ARMED ROBBERY

NEW BERN – United States Attorney George E.B. Holding announced that on Monday, June 9, 2008, United States Chief District Court Judge Louise W. Flanagan sentenced THOMAS LAUREN PFOFF, 51, of Calabash, North Carolina, to 300 months’ (25 years’) imprisonment for the armed robbery of multiple Advance Auto Parts stores near the coastal North Carolina/South Carolina border.

PFOFF, whose criminal history includes a 1985 conviction for a first degree rape in Baltimore, Maryland, participated in a crime spree in September and October of 2005 during which he robbed six Advance Auto Parts Stores at gunpoint. The stores were located in Wilmington, North Carolina; Conway, South Carolina; Garden City, South Carolina; Georgetown, South Carolina; Myrtle Beach, South Carolina; and Shallotte, North Carolina. In each of the robberies, PFOFF entered the stores near closing time wearing a ski mask, brandishing a firearm, and demanding money. In several locations, he forced employees and customers to lie down near the store’s safe and demanded that a manager open it. The take from the robberies totaled several thousand dollars.

PFOFF and his getaway driver, Ginger THORNSBERRY,1 were apprehended after the robbery of the Shallotte store on October 26, 2005. That night, the manager of the Shallotte store, anticipating that his store might be the next robbery victim, stationed himself across the street to watch out for suspicious activity, something he had done for several days after hearing of the robberies of other area Advance Auto Parts stores. On October 26, 2005, near closing time, the manager spotted PFOFF exiting a vehicle, pulling a ski mask over his head, and entering the store. The manager called 911 while the robbery was in progress and followed the getaway vehicle until Shallotte police arrived to make the arrests.

During the sentencing hearing, Judge Flanagan heard statements from four Advance Auto Parts employees who explained to the court the impact of the robberies on their work and on their lives. United States Attorney George E.B. Holding welcomed news of the sentence: “This case should serve to remind us that real heroes exist among the people we see every day. Authorities were able to bring Mr. Pfoff and Ms. Thornsberry to justice because of a store manager who refused to cower to thugs and did everything he could to see to it that they were caught. His efforts brought to a halt a crime spree that could well have ended with far more victims and even deaths. I agree wholeheartedly with Chief Judge Flanagan’s assessment of this man as a predator, and I am thankful to the store manager who ended his criminal career.”

Mr. Holding also thanked Chief Judge Flanagan for her consideration of the victims’ perspectives on the case. “Our office believes that the voices of victims are fundamental to justice, and we are thankful for a judiciary that takes the same view. The strength of the four who testified in Monday’s hearing ensured that the full picture of the impact of the case was presented and considered in arriving at this result.”

Investigation of the case was led by the Shallotte Police Department, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms; the Wilmington Police Department; the Horry County, South Carolina Police Department; the Georgetown, South Carolina Police Department; and the Conway, South Carolina Police Department. Assistant United States Attorney Jay Exum handled the case for the United States.

 

News releases are available on the U. S. Attorney’s web page at www.usdoj.gov/usao/nce within 48 hours of release.

1Thornsberry was sentenced to 70 months’ imprisonment for her role in the robberies in July of 2007.

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