10 Convicted For Violent Robberies Of Area Banks
HOUSTON – 10 men set for trial this week on charges related to the armed bank robberies of several area financial institutions, including one involving the shooting of an off-duty sergeant, have now been convicted, United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced today.
Shelton McGowen, 24, opted to plead guilty before trial was set to begin on Tuesday. During jury selection on Wednesday, seven more entered guilty pleas – Derrick Williams, 28, Marcus Rosemond Tarpley, 32, Reginald Mosley, 37, Joel Keon Jackson, 33, Hakim Ibn Ahmad, 29, Alonzo Horace Harris, 37, and Patrick Wayne Simmons, 29. The final two – Calvin Wesley Gray, 33, pleaded guilty the morning of opening statements, while Dwayne Holmes, 35, entered his guilty plea following the government’s opening remarks and with a witness about to take the stand.
All men were convicted of conspiracy to commit bank robbery, multiple bank robbery charges as well as brandishing and/or discharging a firearm during commission of a violent crime.
An 11th defendant, Anthony Demonde Nowlin, 24, had previously pleaded guilty earlier this year to bank robbery and conspiracy to interfere with commerce through bank robbery.
The government contended in its opening remarks that the defendants were part of a sophisticated criminal organization that planned and executed violent takeover style bank robberies of banks inside grocery stores. The conspiracy began on May 4, 2007, and ended with the arrest of some of the men on Sept. 16, 2011.
According to court records, the defendants would “case” banks and credit unions that were located in grocery stores, using force, violence and intimidation to rob them. During the robberies, which were committed on weekday mornings between 9:00 a.m. and noon, the defendants wore dark clothing, gloves, material over their faces and were armed with semi-automatic pistols, shotguns and Uzi style firearms to intimidate the bank employees. The men would also use stolen vehicles during the robberies to elude law enforcement.
During the Aug. 4, 2011, robbery of Wells Fargo Bank in Sugar Land, the robbers shot an off-duty sergeant with the Harris County Sheriff’s Office who was in the bank on personal business. He survived.
Tarpley, Nowlin, Ahmad, Mosley, McGowen and Williams were arrested on the morning of Sept. 16, 2011, on Interstate 45 North after several were observed both driving and going in and out of a stolen Dodge Intrepid. Officers later observed McGowen enter the Associated Credit Union for the purpose of casing it for a robbery. Law enforcement officers observed several suspicious vehicles one with paper plates near the Kroger that housed the Associated Credit Union on the day of their Sept. 16 arrest. Due to previous robberies of groceries store banks and credit unions, law enforcement had reason to believe that the defendants were about to commit an armed bank robbery.
Further investigation led to the identification of the additional five defendants involved in the scheme resulting in the federal indictment for multiple bank robberies in the greater Houston area. After the dismantling of this 11-man crew, no further violent takeover style bank robberies occurred inside of bank grocery stores.
The conspiracy charge carries as possible punishment a term of five years in federal prison as well as a $250,000 fine. For each conviction of bank robbery, the men also face as much as 20 years in prison and $250,000 fine. Use of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence will result in an additional minimum sentence of either seven or 10 years and up to life in prison which must be served consecutively to any other prison term imposed.
All defendants remain in custody pending sentencing. U.S. District Judge David Hittner, who presided over the trial, will set that hearing at a later date.
This matter was investigated by the FBI Bank Robbery Task Force which is comprised of personnel from the FBI, Houston Police Department and the Harris County Sheriff's Office with special assistance from the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office and the Baytown and Pasadena Police Departments. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Suzanne Elmilady and Kebharu H. Smith.