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'Ringleader' in bank robbery gets 14-year prison sentence

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Kevin Murphy/Special to the Gazette
April 16, 2008
— The “ringleader” of a Footville bank robbery whose cooperation with authorities prompted his co-defendants to plead guilty was sentenced Tuesday in federal court to 14 1/2 years in prison.

Troy Thomas, 35, Rockford, Ill., conceived the plan to rob the Mid-American Bank in Footville on Nov. 9 and recruited four others to help, U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb said. Thomas stole the getaway car in Beloit and brandished the firearm he carried into the bank lobby. Although he was the first robber to plead guilty, Thomas remains a “very dangerous man,” Crabb said.


“I don’t see much possibility that you’ll ever change your ways. Despite treatment and therapy, (crime) has been embedded in you by the awful fact of your childhood,” Crabb said.


As a child, Thomas suffered abuse from his mother, and then ran away from home to join Chicago street gangs, which led to drug dealing and robberies, Crabb said. Thomas was living in a transient motel in Rockford with two women when he hatched the plan to rob the Footville bank, Crabb said.


Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Graber said the robbery was a “very serious crime,” involving four participants, two of whom carried loaded weapons into bank and then led police on a high-speed car chase, which forced three oncoming vehicles off the road.


Graber asked Crabb to impose a sentence on Thomas that “sends a message.”


“That message is, ‘If you come to our state to rob banks with guns, you’re going to pay a high price,’” Graber said.


Authorities caught up with the getaway car when it ran out of gas near Rockford. Thomas and co-defendants, Donald Thompson, Syke Archambault, and Curtis Seaberry, were arrested at or near the scene, but Matthew Evans fled on foot. The Winnebago County Sheriff’s Department mounted a large-scale manhunt to find him, Graber said.


Although Archambault was the first to plead guilty, it was the guilty plea by Thomas, the ringleader, that caused all but Evans to plead guilty, Graber said.


A customer who witnessed the robbery and attended Tuesday’s sentencing said the robbery was “surreal.”


“It was horrible. I saw guns,” she said.


In a separate hearing, Lisa Ramos, 30, Rockford, was sentenced to one year and one day in prison for withholding information about the robbery from authorities.


Ramos knew for weeks that Thomas and Archambault were planning to rob the bank but didn’t tell police. Ramos, who according to a court document has an IQ of 66, arrived at the scene where Thomas, Archambault and Thompson were arrested but told authorities she didn’t know them or their bank robbery plans.


Sentencing is scheduled Tuesday, April 29, for co-defendants Seaberry, 21, Rockford, and Archambault, 21, Orfordville. Sentencing is Thursday, May 8, for Thompson, 21, Rockford, and Thursday, May 29, for Evans, 36, Rockford.



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