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Updated Mar 26, 2014 - 2:57 pm

Ex-teller convicted in 3 Phoenix-area bank heists

PHOENIX — A former teller has been convicted of orchestrating three bank
robberies in the Phoenix metropolitan area in 2012.

Federal prosecutors said Wednesday that Joel Leon Thomas Jr. was found guilty
of conspiracy to commit bank robbery, aiding and abetting armed bank robbery and
using a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence.

Thomas, 23, is scheduled to be sentenced on July 7 in U.S. District Court in
Phoenix.

Evidence at trial showed Thomas, of El Mirage, provided inside information to
his co-conspirators about bank security measures to craft plans to rob three
banks in January and February 2012.

The conspiracy targeted banks Thomas worked at in Surprise, Sun City and
Peoria.

Thomas orchestrated two bank robberies at gunpoint, prosecutors said. In one of
those heists, he posed as a victim bank teller as he loaded $246,000 from the
vault into a duffel bag for an armed robber who was his friend, they added.

In a third bank robbery, the conspirators recruited two homeless men to demand
money from a bank teller inside a busy grocery store and turn the cash over to
Thomas and the other defendants.

Authorities later seized about $150,000 in stolen money from the suspects’
homes along with bank-robbery demand notes and a hand-drawn diagram of a bank.

The five others charged in the case all pleaded guilty, prosecutors said.

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