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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of New York

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, March 6, 2020

Two Men Arrested In Connection With Two Takeover Style Bank Robberies At Local Credit Unions

CONTACT: Barbara Burns
PHONE: (716) 843-5817
FAX #: (716) 551-3051

BUFFALO, N.Y.--U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced today that Adrian D. Applewhite, 32, of Cheektowaga, NY, and Ronald L. Morris, 45, of Buffalo, NY, were arrested and charged by complaint with bank robbery and incidental crimes. The charge carries a maximum penalty of 25 years in prison, and a fine of $250,000.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Joshua Violanti, who is handling the case, stated that according to the complaint, on October 31, 2019, a male, later identified as defendant Applewhite, entered the Clarence Community and School Federal Credit Union (CCS FCU), on Sheridan Drive in Clarence, holding a cell phone in a manner consistent with video recording or obtaining a photograph. While inside the CCS FCU, Applewhite inquired from staff whether the CCS FCU had an ATM. He then left the building.

Seven days later, on November 7, 2019, three males entered the CCS FCU and conducted a take-over style bank robbery. Armed with pistols, and donning masks and florescent green work gloves, at least two of the masked robbers holding hand guns ordered all the employees to the ground and demanded money. Two of the robbers went back behind the teller line and went through teller's drawers. The third robber went to the vault. The robbers stole a total of $148,793.90.

During the course of the investigation, investigators from the New York State Police Clarence barracks obtained and reviewed surveillance footage from several locations. Using that footage, the getaway vehicle was subsequently traced to an individual known to investigators as Applewhite's wife, A.B., with an address in Cheektowaga, NY.

On November 12, 2019, investigators executed a search warrant on a cell phone used by Applewhite. They recovered a video taken by Applewhite on October 31, 2019, showing the inside of the CCS FCU and audio of Applewhite requesting an ATM. Investigators also discovered a contact “Cracks,” who was later determined to be co-defendant Ronald Morris. One text exchanged between Applewhite and Morris a few days before the robbery read “Be ready Tuesday or Wednesday.” On November 7, 2019, just prior to the time of the robbery, Applewhite sent Morris another text stating “I’m on my way.”

Investigators began to surveille Applewhite in January 2020, and determined that he and Morris met up and actively surveilled other Federal Credit Unions in Niagara Falls and Tonawanda.

Previously, on July 25, 2019, two unidentified subjects entered the Southtowns Community Federal Credit Union (SC FCU) on South Park Avenue in Lackawanna, and conducted a bank robbery with pepper spray and a pistol. The two suspects traversed the teller's counter, sprayed the tellers with pepper spray, and went directly to the unlocked safe, removing $290,500.00 in United States currency. The two suspects placed the currency in a dark colored duffle bag then fled on foot.

Investigators reviewed video surveillance from the day prior, July 24, 2019, and determined that Applewhite entered the SC FCU and requested information from an employee while holding his cell phone in a manner consistent with video recording or obtaining a photograph. Investigators also tracked the vehicle Applewhite was driving once again to his wife. Video surveillance also showed Applewhite driving towards and away from the SC FCU on July 25, 2019. Cell phone data also puts co-defendant Morris around the SC FCU at the time of the robbery.

Subsequent investigation determined that Applewhite spent $2,022 at the Jewelry Center in the Walden Galleria Mall on July 29 2019; $6,400 on a pendant with diamonds on July 30, 2019; and $2,780 at Western Union on July 31, 2019. Applewhite also deposited $4,000 into a Citibank account on July 25, 2020. It was also determined that co-defendant Morris gambled approximately $1,000-$2,000 per week since mid-January 2020. 

The defendants made initial appearances before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeremiah J. McCarthy and are being detained.  

The complaint is the result of an investigation by the New York State Police, Clarence Barracks, under the direction of Major James Hall; the Federal Bureau of Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge Gary Loeffert; the Lackawanna Police Department, under the direction of Chief James Michel; and the Erie County District Attorney’s Office, under the direction of District Attorney John Flynn.

The fact that a defendant has been charged with a crime is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty. 

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Updated March 6, 2020