Jury Convicts Remaining Defendants For Area Armed Bank Robberies
HOUSTON – The two remaining defendants standing trial for their involvement in the armed robbery of several Houston-area banks have been convicted on all counts as charged, United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced today along with FBI Special Agent in Charge Stephen Morris. Early this afternoon, the federal jury convicted Larry Smith, 37, and Raymond Tierra Johnson, 32, each of one count of conspiracy as well as seven and two counts of bank robbery, respectively, after five days of trial and less than two hours of deliberations. Both were also convicted of using a firearm during and in furtherance of a bank robbery.
“Let these guilty verdicts send a strong message,” said Morris. “The old fashioned crime of bank robbery is one that doesn’t pay. The FBI will continue to work alongside our local law enforcement partners in the FBI Bank Robbery Task Force to ensure violent criminals are brought to justice.”
A total of 14 defendants were charged with their respective involvements in a series of armed bank robberies of Houston area banks including the robbery of the Pearland Chase branch bank on Dec. 31, 2010. Jeremy Benton, 22, was charged by information and later pleaded guilty, while Smith, Johnson and 11 others were charged in a superceding indictment returned July 6, 2011. Glenn Bonner, 41, pleaded guilty on the first day of trial last week. Co-defendants Gregory Wayne Ferguson, 20, Arlington Davis Wilkes aka AD, 22, Carl Ray Turner Jr. aka CT, 26, Edward Johnson, 28.,John Berley Scott aka Fresh, 31, Derrick Lashon Paley aka Crybaby, 34, Michael Maurice Wilson Jr. aka Blue/Mikey Poo, 26, Roderick Marshall Beagle, 40, Michael Dushon Duncan aka Mikey, 21, and Kelvin Dewayne Thomas aka Little Kevin, 22, each had previously entered guilty pleas.
Smith was convicted today of committing bank robbery of the Wells Fargo branches on 10978 Grant Road and 13150 Louetta on Aug. 23, 2010, and Nov. 2, 2010, respectively, Wells Fargo locations at 14001 Memorial and 12859 Kimberly Lane in Houston, both on Oct. 7, 2010, the Comerica Bank on Sept. 13, 2010, and the Citibank at 14104 NW Freeway. The jury found he used a firearm in the offenses on Sept. 14 and Nov. 2, 2010. Both defendants were convicted of robbing the Chase Bank at 24230 Northwest Freeway in Cypress and for using a firearm in the offense. Johnson was convicted of bank robbery for the Dec. 31, 2010, robbery of the Chase Bank at 1915 North Main in Pearland and for using a firearms in the commission of that crime.
The conspiracy involved “casing” banks for robberies and the selection of banks that did not have security guards or bullet resistant bandit barriers Evidence at trial indicated the conspirators used lookouts during robberies and used stolen or “hot” cars as get-a-way vehicles to commit the offenses. The conspirators recruited others to assist them to rob the banks in exchange for a share of the proceeds taken.
Evidence and testimony revealed most bank robberies were effected through the use of demand notes that Smith had written and through the brandishing and firing of firearms during the course of the robbery to ensure compliance with their demands.
Testimony revealed some of the violence witnessed by those in the banks and the threats made to gain compliance. One witness described the event as a life changing experience.
For the conviction of conspiracy to commit bank robbery, both face a maximum punishment of five years imprisonment and/or a $250,000 fine. Each conviction of bank robbery also carries a maximum punishment of 20 years incarceration (or 25 years if firearms displayed). Discharging a firearm during and in furtherance of a bank robbery carries a mandatory punishment of 10 years on each conviction which must be served consecutive to any sentences imposed for the underlying bank robbery convictions.
The charges against these defendants are the result of a federal investigation conducted by the FBI with the substantial assistance and cooperation of the Houston Police Department, Harris County Sheriff’s Office, Harris County Precinct 4 Constable’s Office, Harris County District Attorney’s Office, Crimestoppers, Friendswood Police Department, Pearland Police Department and the Brazoria County District Attorney’s Office. The United States Attorney wishes to recognizes each of these investigative agencies as well as the security departments of Wells Fargo and JP Morgan Chase for their outstanding efforts.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Suzanne Elmilady and Kebharu Smith are prosecuting the case.