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Press Release

Getaway Driver for Bank Robber Sentenced to Federal Prison

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of Iowa
Merrick led police on a twenty-mile chase, refusing to stop even after the tires on her getaway van were destroyed by stop sticks.

A woman who voluntarily participated in the robbery of a bank was sentenced today to more than two years in federal prison.

Karen Merrick, age 36, from Sioux City, Iowa, received the prison term after a September 10, 2019, guilty plea to being an accessory after the fact to bank robbery.

Information provided by the United States at Merrick’s change of plea, detention, and sentencing hearings, revealed Merrick knew Phillip White had just robbed the Iowa State Bank in Le Mars, Iowa on December 12, 2018, when she chose to help him escape the crime scene.  Merrick, despite driving a U-Haul, led officers on a dangerous, 20-mile, car-chase, that reached speeds of 70 miles per hour.  She ran an intersection, endangered other motorists and pedestrians, and was only brought to a stop, when officers used stop-sticks to destroy her wheels.  In fact, even after her tires were deflated, she continued to flee in the vehicle for a couple more miles until she lost control of the van.

Merrick had a significant history of criminal behavior and substance abuse, and had been convicted of assaultive conduct, escape, and interference with official acts prior to the present offense.    

Merrick was sentenced in Sioux City by United States District Court Chief Judge Leonard T. Strand.  Merrick was sentenced to 30 months’ imprisonment.  She was ordered to make $21,223,11 in restitution to Iowa State Bank in Le Mars, Iowa and to U-Haul of Sioux City, Iowa.  She must also serve a two-year term of supervised release after the prison term.  There is no parole in the federal system. 

White, whose crime spree included not only a bank robbery but also a robbery of a taxi cab two months before, was sentenced in Sioux City by United States District Court Chief Judge Leonard T. Strand, on November 22, 2019, to 144 months’ imprisonment.  He was ordered to make $21,503.11 in restitution.  He must also serve a 3-year term of supervised release after the prison term.

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN).  PSN is the centerpiece of the Department of Justice’s violent crime reduction efforts.  PSN is an evidence-based program proven to be effective at reducing violent crime. Through PSN, a broad spectrum of stakeholders work together to identify the most pressing violent crime problems in the community and develop comprehensive solutions to address them. As part of this strategy, PSN focuses enforcement efforts on the most violent offenders and partners with locally based prevention and reentry programs for lasting reductions in crime.

This case is also part of Project Guardian, the Department of Justice’s signature initiative to reduce gun violence and enforce federal firearms laws. Initiated by the Attorney General in the fall of 2019, Project Guardian draws upon the Department’s past successful programs to reduce gun violence; enhances coordination of federal, state, local, and tribal authorities in investigating and prosecuting gun crimes; improves information-sharing by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives when a prohibited individual attempts to purchase a firearm and is denied by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), to include taking appropriate actions when a prospective purchaser is denied by the NICS for mental health reasons; and ensures that federal resources are directed at the criminals posing the greatest threat to our communities. The United States Attorney’s Office has prosecuted this case with support from the following Project Guardian partners. For more information about Project Guardian, please see /media/1122011/download?inline.

Merrick is being held in the United States Marshal’s custody until she can be transported to a federal prison.

The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Iowa State Patrol, the Plymouth County Sherriff’s Office, and the Le Mars and Sioux City, Iowa Police Departments.  The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Forde Fairchild.

Court file information at

The case file number is 19-4012.

Follow us on Twitter @USAO_NDIA.

Updated January 27, 2020

Project Guardian
Project Safe Neighborhoods
Violent Crime