Special to The Leader
The Orange Leader
A 39-year-old Beaumont, Texas man has been sentenced to federal prison for bank robbery in the Eastern District of Texas, announced U.S. Attorney John M. Bales.
Jonathan Keith Roberts pleaded guilty on Aug. 23, 2012, to two counts of bank robbery and brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence and was sentenced to 180 months in federal prison by U.S. District Judge Thad Heartfield.
According to information presented in court, on Dec. 4, 2009, Beaumont police officers were dispatched to BBVA Compass Bank on Phelan Boulevard in Beaumont, in reference to a robbery. During their investigation, officers learned that a man wearing a black mask entered the front door when tellers were changing their registers, resulting in more cash than usual being on hand at the counter.
He produced a handgun and started shouting at employees as he approached the counter. He placed a blue nylon bag on the counter and approximately three times, said, “Give me your money now!”
The man pointed the gun at several of the bank stations, showing employees the registers from which he wanted money. He did not point to any of the stations that had no money in them, which was strange to the employees. When employees hesitated, he said he would shoot one of them to show them he was serious. Employees put the money in the bag as directed, and, after the man grabbed the bag, he told the employees to go to the back. He told them not to come out and then he quickly fled on foot. The employees locked themselves in a room to hide until officers arrived. It was later determined that $29,170.89 had been stolen during the robbery.
On Jan. 9, 2010, as the manager of the Guaranty Bank on Interstate 10 East in Beaumont walked toward the entry door to lock the door in preparation to close for the day, a man wearing a mask and dressed in black entered the bank with an automatic handgun.
The man pointed the firearm toward her and another worker and ordered them to get on their knees. They did not move fast enough so the man chambered a round in the gun to show that the gun was loaded and he was serious. In doing so, a .40 caliber live round dropped to the floor that had already been in the chamber. He then made them crawl to the back of the lobby and lay down on the floor.
A co-actor with a handgun entered the bank behind the first man. The co-actor went to the counter and approached a customer, pointed a gun at her back, and told her “get your hands up.” The customer raised her hands and dropped $60 that she was holding in her hand. The robber took her money and ordered her to walk to the back of the lobby. He opened the door that led to the break room/restroom areas.
At that moment, a hired contractor who had been working on signs at the bank, exited the restroom and was also ordered around at gunpoint. The co-actor then led Larzo and the contractor back to the lobby and onto the floor. An employee put money in a bag as instructed by one of the robbers. The employee also put a "dye pack" and "bait bills" in the bag. The robber wanted more money, and asked for a manager. The robber was told there was no more money and the robbers then left the bank on foot.
A witness had seen the two actors being dropped off at the bank by the driver of a car that left the area and parked in the area of a nearby hotel. When the actors left the bank, they ran to the get-away car. Witnesses observed the men as a dye pack exploded while one of the robbers was carrying the bag of money. The explosion caused the robber to fall, but he got up and limped to the vehicle which then sped away.
During a subsequent investigation of a robbery at Harbor Freight Store in Beaumont, officers interviewed Jonathan Roberts who confessed to taking part in both bank robberies as well as the Harbor Freight Store robbery. Roberts knew details about the robberies that were not released to the public, such as the description of the witnesses and the presence of the dye pack in the January 9, 2010 bank robbery.
This case was investigated by the FBI and the Beaumont Police Department and prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Baylor Wortham.