8 sentenced to prison for violent Houston-area bank robberies

HOUSTON - Eight people responsible for a series of Houston-area bank robberies, including one in which a Harris County sheriff's deputy was shot, have been sentenced to federal prison.

Authorities say the defendants were part of a "sophisticated criminal organization" that involved violent robberies of banks inside grocery stores that began on May 4, 2007, and ended with the arrest of some of the men on Sept. 16, 2011.

According to authorities, Shelton McGowen, 24, opted to plead guilty before trial was set to begin back on May 28. During jury selection the next day, seven more entered guilty pleas – Derrick Williams, 28, Marcus Rosemond Tarpley, 32, Reginald Mosley, 37, Joel Keon Jackson, 33, Hakim Ibn Ahmad, 31, Alonzo Horace Harris, 37, and Patrick Wayne Simmons, 29.

The final two – Calvin Wesley Gray, 34, pleaded guilty the morning of opening statements, while Dwayne Holmes, 34, entered his guilty plea following the government's opening remarks and with a witness about to take the stand.

On Thursday, U.S. District Judge David Hittner sentenced Mosley, identified as the shooter of the off-duty officer, to a total term of 525 months in prison. He was convicted of conspiracy, three counts of bank robbery and discharging a firearm during commission of a violent crime.

Simmons, also convicted on the same five counts as Mosley, was ordered to serve a 480-month term of imprisonment.

Tarpley and Ahmad, both convicted of conspiracy as well as three counts of bank robbery and  brandishing a firearm during commission of a violent crime, were sentenced to respective terms of 480 and 444 months in prison, while Gray, convicted of conspiracy and two counts of bank robbery will serve 300 months.

McGowen, Jackson and Williams were each convicted of one count of conspiracy, and will serve 60 months in federal prison. The sentencings of Holmes and Harris were continued to November.

During Thursday's hearing, additional evidence and testimony was presented, including statements from Sgt. Michael Ellison, a Harris County deputy who was wounded during a robbery on Aug. 4, 2011. The robbery occurred at the Wells Fargo Bank in Sugar Land. Ellison was wounded while he was off duty and in the bank on personal business. He confronted the robbers and one opened fire, shooting him twice.

"Those who wish to continue in their efforts to commit these types of crimes, know for sure that ultimately your day is coming and you too will be behind chains and shackles," said Ellison.

Mosley, the man who shot Ellison said one word in court,"Sorry."

"That's not enough and if you ask me, was he sorry, no I think he was because he got caught," said Ellison.

An eleventh defendant, Anthony Demonde Nowlin, 24, had previously pleaded guilty earlier this year to bank robbery and conspiracy to interfere with commerce through bank robbery. He is set to be sentenced on Monday. 

According to court documents, the defendants would "case" banks and credit unions that were located in grocery stores, using force, violence and intimidation to rob them.

"I think that justice was served today. We pray for the victims and all their family," said the uncle of defendant Jackson.

All men will remain in custody until they are transferred to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility.

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