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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Alaska

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Anchorage Man Sentenced To Nine Years For Armed Bank Robbery

Anchorage, Alaska-U.S. Attorney Karen Loeffler announced today that an Anchorage man was sentenced by Chief U.S. District Court Judge Ralph R. Beistline to serve a 108 month term of imprisonment for his commission of an armed bank robbery.

James Donald Surrells, 44, of Anchorage, Alaska, previously pled guilty to robbing a local branch of First National Bank Alaska (FNBA).  As part of his plea, Surrells admitted his use of a handgun during the robbery and agreed that his sentence should be increased as a result of his gun possession.

Specifically, Surrells admitted that, on August 13, 2014, he donned a disguise and entered the bank armed with a handgun and a demand note.  He took the note to one of the bank tellers and demanded money.  When the teller leaned forward to see the note more clearly, Surrells showed her the butt of his handgun, which caused her to fear that he would kill or physically harm her if she did not comply with his demands.  In total, Surrells was able to steal $1,210 before fleeing the bank.

Judge Beistline cited the victim’s plight in announcing the sentence, noting that Surrells’ actions put his own immediate desires above those of the victim, who was simply doing her job.  Judge Beistline called the crime a “premeditated bank robbery with a gun” – noting that it took a great deal of planning to accomplish.  The court also cited the defendant’s extensive criminal history, saying that such a past clearly demonstrates that Surrells disrespects the law whenever he is given a chance.  Given those considerations, Judge Beistline felt it necessary to craft a sentence that protects the community and deters others from committing similar crimes in the future.

Following his prison term, Surrells will be on supervised release for a term of five years.  He must also pay FNBA $1,210 in restitution.  In announcing the sentence, Loeffler praised the work the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Alaska State Troopers, whose investigation efforts led to Surrells’ arrest and conviction.

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Updated February 4, 2016