Jury Convicts Crew in Murder of Armored Car Guard
HOUSTON – A federal jury in Houston has just returned guilty verdicts on all counts as charged against four men involved in the murder of a Brinks armored car guard, among other charges, announced U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick. The jury deliberated for approximately eight hours following a nine-day trial before convicting Nelson Alexander Polk, 40, Marc Anthony Hill, 48, John Edward Scott, 43, and Bennie Charles Phillips Jr., 31, all of Houston.
All four were convicted of attempted interference with commerce by robbery and aiding and abetting discharge of a firearm during a crime of violence. The jury also convicted Hill and Polk of aiding and abetting interference with commerce by robbery and aiding and abetting discharge of a firearm during a crime of violence causing the death of another.
The trial centered on the robbery and murder of a Brinks armored car guard on Aug. 29, 2016, at Wells Fargo Bank located at 13120 Northwest Freeway as well as the attempted robbery of a Loomis armored car guard at Amegy Bank located at 400 N Sam Houston Pkwy E on Dec. 7, 2016.
At trial, the jury heard that a now-deceased individual had allegedly led the robbery crew, which would conduct extensive surveillance of banks’ ATMs and armored car routes before executing the robberies. According to testimony, the plan involved the leader lying in wait for the guard to begin service of the ATM. He would then shoot the guard from a distance with a high caliber rifle so another member of the robbery crew could pull up and take the money.
The jury heard that in the August robbery and murder, the leader of the crew allegedly shot and killed the guard. Polk then drove a vehicle up to the guard, at which time another crew member got out and took the Brinks’ bag of money. Hill had been in the area conducting surveillance.
The men played the same roles in December Amegy robbery attempt. The jury heard that law enforcement watched and listened to calls over the leader’s phone as they prepared to rob the Loomis guard. He and Hill spent hours and took shifts surveilling the bank. On the date of the attempted robbery, the crew leader sat across from the ATM in an apartment complex parking lot ready to take his shot.
When law enforcement moved in to arrest the subjects, the crew leader allegedly came out firing his weapon and police responded, killing him.
On that day, Polk and Trayvees Duncan Bush, 31, also of Houston, sat ready to drive up to the slain guard to steal the money. Phillips recruited Bush and ensured he would be ready on the morning of Dec. 7. Hill was nearby conducting surveillance and would meet up with Polk and Bush to provide them a different getaway vehicle. Scott was further away from the Amegy bank doing surveillance and watching for the armored truck to approach the location.
The jury also heard dozens of wiretap calls as the defendants planned the attempted robbery of the armored truck, which they frequently referred to as commissary or Bentley. They saw video and heard audio from a recording device placed in the Jeep Cherokee the crew leader had allegedly stolen for purposes of the crime. The jury was able to watch and hear as he set up his rifle shot from the back seat and placed mylar over the driver side window to avoid deflecting the bullet.
Testimony also included a cell site location expert who tracked phone locations of the crew leader, Hill and Polk in the weeks leading up to the August murder and robbery. He was able to show how Hill and Polk played similar roles, surveilling the bank and being near the bank during the time of the murder and robbery.
The defense claimed the deceased crew leader planned the whole thing and they had no knowledge of his intentions. Further, Polk and Hill argued that they were not there during the August robbery and murder. The jury was not convinced and convicted them on all counts as charged.
All of the defendants convicted today face up to 20 years for the robbery and another 10-year-minimum and up to life for the firearms charge which must be served consecutively to any other prison term imposed. Hill and Polk face the same terms for the additional charges for which they were convicted.
U.S. District Judge Hittner presided over the trial.
They will remain in custody pending their sentencing.
Bush had pleaded guilty prior to trial.
The FBI, Houston Police Department and ATF conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Heather Winter and Richard Hanes are prosecuting the case.
The case is an example of coordination between law enforcement who are part of the Houston Law Enforcement Violent Crime Initiative. The goal is to proactively fight and reduce violent crime across the Greater Houston area by targeting the region’s most violent offenders, augmenting investigative and prosecutorial efforts, and enhancing training, public awareness and education.
They were brought as part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program that has been historically successful in bringing together all levels of law enforcement to reduce violent crime and make our neighborhoods safer for everyone.