San Pedro Man Sentenced to 11 Years in Federal Prison for Robbing Gardena Credit Union at Gunpoint with Employee’s Help
LOS ANGELES – A San Pedro man was sentenced today to 132 months in federal prison for being the gunman in a violent, takeover-style robbery of a Gardena credit union, where an employee helped with the planning and execution of the heist.
Toyrieon Sessions, 30, a.k.a. “Phat” and “PhatStax,” was sentenced by United States District Judge André Birotte Jr.
During a four-day trial in June 2019, a jury found Sessions guilty of three felonies in relation to the robbery of the Northrop Grumman Federal Credit Union (NGFCU) on April 21, 2017: conspiracy to commit armed bank robbery, armed bank robbery, and brandishing a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence.
The robbery also involved two conspirators who previously have been convicted for their roles in the robbery:
- Daronnie Thompkins, 32, of the Gramercy Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, who recruited Sessions to be the gunman and knew the credit union’s layout; and
- Iris Lester, 28, of Inglewood, a NGFCU employee who was Thompkins’ girlfriend at the time and who assisted with the robbery.
On the day of the robbery, Sessions entered the office building in which the credit union is located and walked past NGFCU’s main entrance, entering a side hallway where the NGFCU’s bathrooms were located. Sessions waited in the men’s restroom until Lester and another NGFCU employee exited the women’s bathroom, which was the signal for the robbery to begin. At that point, Sessions left the men’s bathroom, brandished a semi-automatic handgun and used it to force Lester, who was pretending to be a victim, and the other employee to provide access to the credit union’s vault room.
Once inside the vault room, Lester and the other NGFCU employee realized they did not have the key to open the vault. Sessions allowed Lester to exit the vault room – but, instead of escaping, Lester returned with another credit union employee who was supposed to have the vault key. Lester then left the room a second time and retrieved the keys.
When Lester returned, Sessions ordered her and the two other credit union employees onto their knees while pointing the handgun at each of them – an experience that “terrorized the victims…and left them…deeply traumatized,” prosecutors wrote in their sentencing memorandum.
Sessions stole a total of $311,300 from the credit union and placed the cash in a black trash bag before exiting the vault room and fleeing the scene in a silver Dodge Avenger.
During an August 2018 bench trial, Thompkins was convicted of conspiracy and armed bank robbery. Judge Birotte later sentenced him to nine years in federal prison. Lester pleaded guilty to criminal charges in this case. Her sentencing hearing is scheduled for June 18.
The FBI and the Los Angeles Police Department investigated this matter.
Assistant United States Attorneys Jeffrey M. Chemerinsky and Bruce K. Riordan of the Violent and Organized Crime Section prosecuted this case.