10 bank robbery suspects plead guilty before trial

May 30, 2013 1:48:35 PM PDT
Ten men who were set to face trial this week for a string of violent bank robberies across the Houston area have decided to plead guilty and avoid a jury.

All the men have been convicted of conspiracy to commit bank robbery, multiple bank robbery charges as well as brandishing and/or discharging a firearm during commission of a violent crime, according to a U.S. Department of Justice Statement. Prosecutors say they participated in violent, takeover-style bank robberies stemming as far back as May 4, 2007.

Shelton McGowen, 24, pleaded guilty before trial was set to begin on Tuesday. Then during jury selection the following day, the following seven entered guilty pleas: Derrick Williams, 28, Marcus Rosemond Tarpley, 32, Reginald Mosley, 37, Joel Keon Jackson, 33, Hakim Ibn Ahmad, 29, Alonzo Horace Harris, 37, and Patrick Wayne Simmons, 29. Another two -? 33-year-old Calvin Wesley Gray and 35-year-old Dwayne Holmes -- also pleaded before the first witness could even take a stand.

An 11th defendant, Anthony Demonde Nowlin, 24, had previously pleaded guilty earlier this year to bank robbery and conspiracy to interfere with commerce through bank robbery.

Prosecutors say the men were part of a sophisticated criminal organization that targeted banks inside grocery stores between May 4, 2007 and September 16, 2011. During the robberies, which were committed on weekday mornings between 9:00 a.m. and noon, the men wore dark clothing, gloves, material over their faces and were armed with semi-automatic pistols, shotguns and Uzi-style firearms to intimidate the bank employees. The men would also use stolen vehicles during the robberies to elude law enforcement.

Authorities say the group also was behind the August 4, 2011, robbery of a Sugar Land bank during which an off-duty Harris County Sheriff's Office sergeant was shot. He survived.

Tarpley, Nowlin, Ahmad, Mosley, McGowen and Williams were arrested on the morning of Sept. 16, 2011, on Interstate 45 North outside a grocery where investigators believed a credit union was at risk of getting robbed. Further investigation led to the identification of the rest of the men and 11-man crew was dismantled.

The conspiracy charge carries as possible punishment a term of five years in federal prison as well as a $250,000 fine. For each conviction of bank robbery, the men also face as much as 20 years in prison and $250,000 fine. Use of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence will result in an additional minimum sentence of either seven or 10 years and up to life in prison which must be served consecutively to any other prison term imposed.

All defendants remain in custody pending sentencing. U.S. District Judge David Hittner, who presided over the trial, will set that hearing at a later date.

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