Massive Sentences Handed Down For Violent 2010 News Year’s Eve Bank Robbery, Among OthersLeader Gets 90 Years
HOUSTON – With the sentencing of six defendants today, 11 of the total 14 charged in a series of armed Houston area bank robberies, including the robbery of the Pearland Chase branch bank on Dec. 31, 2010, have now been ordered to prison, announced United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson. The Pearland Bank Robbery itself resulted in a nearly six-hour standoff with law enforcement.
Larry Smith, 37, and Raymond Tierra Johnson, 32, were convicted by a federal jury in March 2013 after five days of trial, while Jeremy Benton, 22, Glenn Bonner, 41, Gregory Wayne Ferguson, 21, Arlington Davis Wilkes aka AD, 23, Carl Ray Turner Jr. aka CT, 27, Edward Johnson, 29,John Berley Scott aka Fresh, 31, Derrick Lashon Paley aka Crybaby, 35, Michael Maurice Wilson Jr. aka Blue/Mikey Poo, 26, Roderick Marshall Beagle, 41, Michael Dushon Duncan aka Mikey, 21, and Kelvin Dewayne Thomas aka Little Kevin, 23, each had previously entered guilty pleas.
Today, U.S. District Judge Gray Miller, who accepted the guilty pleas and presided over the trial, sentenced Raymond Johnson
Benton, Bonner, Scott, Wilson and Wilkes to varying terms of federal imprisonment. Johnson was considered to be the “muscle” of the crew and, on several occasions, assaulted and/or pistol-whipped victims indiscriminately. He received 60 months for conspiracy to commit bank robbery which will run consecutive to two concurrent terms of 300 months on each of two counts of bank robbery. He was further sentenced to 84 and 300 months for each of two counts of using a firearm during the commission of the crime which are to be served consecutively to each other and to other sentences imposed for a total term of 744 months or 62 years in federal prison.
Bonner told officers during the standoff that he was going to start to kill victims within minutes if his demands weren’t met. Specifically, he demanded the officers move their vehicles and depart so he could flee the scene. Judge Miller imposed a total sentence for him of 257 months – 137 for the bank robbery charges in addition to 120 months for use of a firearm.
Benton received 151 months for conspiracy to commit and committing bank robbery in addition to a consecutive 84 months for using a firearm, while Scott and Wilson received respective sentences of 151 and 168 months for the conspiracy and bank robberies as well as consecutive 120 months terms for the firearm violations resulting in 271 and 288 months. Wilkes was handed a sentence of 120 months for his role in the conspiracy.
At the hearing today, the court heard testimony from two victims greatly impacted by the defendants’ actions. One specifically mentioned the individual trauma she has experienced and admits suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome as a result of the horrific event. Another victim, also a witness at the trial, described the event as a life changing experience. That victim had been beaten in the course of the robbery and was off work for a great deal of time. Both victims also reported they have been unable to return to the banking industry for work and have even been unable to enter a bank since the violent event. The government also provided evidence to the court that during the course of the bank robbery conspiracy, more than 80 victims have been identified.
Yesterday, Smith, determined to be a leader in the overall conspiracy, received a total sentence of 90 years in federal prison. He was ordered to serve 300 months for the varying counts of bank robbery to be served consecutively to 60 months for the conspiracy charge. He further received respective sentences of 300, 300 and 120 months on three convictions of use of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence. Those are to be served consecutively to each other and the other sentences imposed for a total of 1080 months in federal prison. At Smith’s hearing yesterday, Assistant United States Attorney (AUSA) Kebharu Smith stated that the sentence imposed should serve as a message to those that have robbed, are robbing or are thinking of robbing banks in the Southern District of Texas, that you will face stiff consequences.
Edward Johnson, Thomas and Duncan had previously received their sentences for their respective bank robbery pleas as well as for using a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence. Edward Johnson received 60 months plus an additional 24 months and Thomas was ordered to serve 60 months plus 10 months, while Duncan was ordered to serve 87 months and a consecutive 120 months for the use of a firearm. Ferguson received a sentence of 12 months and a day, while Turner, Paley and Beagle have yet to be sentenced.
After trial, Smith was convicted by a jury 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 further found he used a firearm in the offenses on Sept. 14 and Nov. 2, 2010. Smith and Johnson were both 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.
The charges against these defendants are the result of the efforts of the FBI Bank Robbery Task Force with the substantial assistance and cooperation of police departments in Houston, Pearland and Friendswood, Harris County Sheriff’s Office, Harris County Precinct 5 Constable’s Office, Harris County District Attorney’s Office, Crimestoppers 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.
AUSAs Suzanne Elmilady and Kebharu Smith are prosecuting the case.