San Pedro Man Who Robbed Gardena Credit Union with Help of Employee Is Convicted of Conspiracy, Armed Bank Robbery
LOS ANGELES – A San Pedro resident was found guilty of being the gunman in the violent, takeover-style robbery of a Gardena credit union in which a credit union employee helped plan and execute the heist that netted $311,300.
Toyrieon Sessions, 29, a.k.a. “Phat” and “PhatStax,” was found guilty of three felonies: conspiracy to commit armed bank robbery, armed bank robbery, and brandishing a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence.
According to evidence presented at his four-day trial, Sessions was the gunman in the robbery of Northrop Grumman Federal Credit Union (“NGFCU”) on April 21, 2017. In addition to Sessions, the robbery involved two conspirators who previously have been convicted for their roles in the robbery:
- Daronnie Thompkins, 31, of Los Angeles, who organized the robbery, recruited Sessions to be the gunman, and knew the layout of the credit union; and
- Iris Lester, 28, of Los Angeles, a NGFCU employee who was Thompkins’ girlfriend at the time.
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 directly to a men’s bathroom, according to trial evidence. Sessions waited in the men’s bathroom until Lester and another NGFCU employee exited the women’s bathroom. At that point, Sessions 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. According to the evidence, 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, but did not hit any panic buttons.
When Lester returned, Sessions forced her and the two other credit union employees onto their knees while pointing the handgun at each of them. 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.
United States District Judge André Birotte Jr., has scheduled an October 4 sentencing hearing, where Sessions will face a statutory maximum sentence of life in federal prison.
After a bench trial in August 2018, Thompkins was convicted of conspiracy and armed bank robbery. Judge Birotte later sentenced him to nine years in federal prison.
Lester has pleaded guilty to criminal charges in the case. Her sentencing hearing is scheduled for October 25.
This matter was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Los Angeles Police Department.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Jeffrey M. Chemerinsky and Bruce K. Riordan of the Violent and Organized Crime Section.