A 13-count indictment charging seven men with conspiring to and committing a series of armed bank robberies of Houston-area banks, including the New Years Eve robbery of a Pearland bank, has been filed in federal court, United States Attorney José Angel Moreno announced today along with FBI-Houston Special Agent in Charge Richard C. Powers and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Special Agent in Charge J. Dewey Webb announced today.
The indictment was returned on Monday, Jan. 31, 2011. Gregory Wayne Ferguson, 18, was arrested today at his home on the 800 block of Prosper in Houston by investigating agents and is expected to make his initial appearance in federal court before a United States Magistrate Judge tomorrow. The United States will be seeking an order to hold Ferguson in custody pending trial on the charges. Larry Smith, 34, of Houston, originally charged by criminal complaint and arrested on Jan. 2, 2011, remains in federal custody without bond by order of the court. He is set to appear for arraignment before U.S. Magistrate Judge Mary Milloy on Feb. 7, 2011, at 10:00 a.m. The five others—all Houston-area residents presently in custody on state charges and pending transfer into federal custody—charged along with Smith and Ferguson are Raymond Tierra Johnson, aka T, 30; Samuel Glen Bonner, aka Glen, 39; Arlington Davis Wilkes, aka AD, 20; Carl Ray Turner Jr., aka CT, 24; and Edward Johnson, 26. Once transferred to federal custody, the United States will seek to hold them in federal custody without bond pending trial of the case. They are also set to appear before Judge Milloy on Feb. 7, 2011, at 10:00 a.m.
“2010 ended with a dramatic stand-off with police and the rescue of robbery victims at a Pearland bank,” said Moreno. “Today, thanks to the collaborative work of local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies, the crew allegedly responsible for that bank robbery, as well as a string of other robberies in Houston and the surrounding counties, will be brought to justice under a federal indictment. The brazen actions by this robbery crew posed a significant threat to the citizens of this district; I applaud the good work of all the agencies involved in investigating the charges handed down today.”
According to allegations in the unsealed indictment, all seven of these men conspired together between Aug. 23, 2010, and Dec. 31, 2010, to rob several Houston-area banks through force and intimidation, including Wells Fargo branch banks on Grant Road on Aug. 23, 2010, Memorial Drive and Kimberly Lane on Oct. 7, 2010, the Coamerica Bank branch on the NW Freeway and the Citibank Branch on Cypresswood on Sept. 14, he Chase Bank branches on the NW Freeway in Cypress, Texas, on Oct. 27, and on North Main in Pearland, Texas, on Dec. 31, 2010. Each of these robberies is alleged as an individual substantive count against two or more of the various defendants.
The conspiracy, according to allegations in the indictment, involved “casing” banks for robberies and the selection of banks that did not have security guards or bullet resistant bandit barriers. The conspirators allegedly used lookouts during robberies and used stolen or “hot” cars as get-a-way vehicles to commit the offenses. The conspiracy involved the recruitment of others to assist them to rob the banks in exchange for a share of the proceeds taken. Bank robberies were effected through the use of demand notes allegedly written by Smith and through the brandishing and firing of firearms during the course of the robbery to ensure compliance with their demands.
“The FBI will continue to have a role alongside our local law enforcement partners in bank robbery investigations,” said Powers. “It should be known this is a high-risk crime for the robber. “Chances are you’re going to get caught.”
The indictment charges Smith and Wilkes with discharging a firearm in conjunction with the Citibank robbery in September 2010. A second firearms charge charges Smith, Johnson, Wilkes, and Ferguson with brandishing a firearm in conjunction with the Chase Bank branch robbery on Oct. 27, 2010. Smith, Turner, and Johnson are charged with discharging a firearm at the Wells Fargo Branch bank robbery on Nov. 3, 2010. The fourth firearms charge charges Johnson and Bonner of discharging a firearm at the Chase Bank branch robbery in Pearland on Dec. 31, 2010.
“This investigation is a fine example of what can be accomplished when federal law enforcement agencies bring to bear distinct investigative techniques, coupled with different jurisdictional functions,” said Webb. “This case certainly speaks to the extent which law enforcement partnerships successfully result in the apprehension and prosecution of those who seek to acquire and use firearms in furtherance of particularly violent crimes.”
Conspiracy to commit a bank robbery carries a maximum punishment of five years’ imprisonment and/or a $250,000 fine upon conviction. Each count of bank robbery carries a maximum punishment upon conviction of 20 years’ incarceration or 25 years if a firearms displayed and/or a $250,000 fine. Brandishing or discharging a firearm during and in furtherance of a bank robbery carries a mandatory punishments of seven and 10 years, respectively, which must be served consecutive to any sentences imposed for the underlying bank robbery conviction.
The charges against these defendants are the result of a federal investigation conducted by the FBI and the ATF 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.
An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence.
A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty through due process of law.