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GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN - Joseph Allen Ellsworth, 32, of Grand Rapids, Michigan, was ordered to serve 14 years in federal prison for bank robbery, Acting U.S. Attorney Andrew Birge announced today. In addition to the prison term, U.S. District Judge Paul Maloney ordered Ellsworth to serve four years of supervised release following his release from prison, and pay restitution of $7,318.
On July 20, 2016, at about 2:00 pm, Ellsworth wore an orange ski mask, entered the Fifth Third Bank on 54th street in Wyoming, Michigan, racked what appeared to be a semi-automatic pistol, pointed it at a teller, and demanded money.
Ellsworth made off with $7,318. Hidden in the cash was a dye pack. Ellsworth left by foot and ran west to the Inter-Urban Trail, where he recovered a bike and rode south. During their search, police eventually saw Ellsworth, causing him to drop the bike to the ground and flee into nearby woods. Police recovered the bike, which was stained from the dye pack and had Ellsworth’s DNA on its handlebars. A subsequent search of Ellsworth’s phone revealed pictures of dye-stained money.
The U.S. Attorney’s office pursued charges against Ellsworth with the July 20th robbery as well as a robbery committed in an identical fashion at the same bank nine days earlier. On April 6, 2017, a jury convicted Ellsworth of the July 20th robbery but acquitted on the earlier offense.
One of the three victimized tellers spoke at Ellsworth’s sentencing saying, "I know I will forever struggle with the emotional and mental effects of these crimes. I am not sure I will ever fully recover." The victim teller went on to detail that she initially moved away from the Grand Rapids area due to the fear the robbery instilled in her. However, she also hoped to turn that fear around and use it to help other bank robbery victims: "I do hope that one day I can use my traumatic experiences to help others who were unwillingly put in a situation like I was."
Judge Maloney stated that the 14-year sentence was necessary to reflect the impact Ellsworth’s actions had on the victim tellers, and to deter Ellsworth and others from committing similar crimes. Judge Maloney also noted that Ellsworth repeatedly took advantage of others to get what he wanted, and that Ellsworth committed three home invasions in the period leading up to the bank robbery.
The Wyoming Police Department investigated the case with assistance from the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Davin M. Reust and Timothy P. VerHey prosecuted and tried the case.