A 40-second bank holdup has led to prison sentences of 3½ years for three robbers.
Three Buffalo residents who frightened employees and customers June 8 at a Bank of America branch in Cheektowaga were led Thursday from an Erie County courtroom in handcuffs.
Antoinette Freeman, 24, of Wyoming Street; Porche Allen, 23, of Mendola Avenue; and Darian Allen Jr., 21, also of Mendola, were sentenced to the same prison terms by Erie County Judge Kenneth F. Case.
“You all entered into it collectively. You all contributed to this awful event. You’re all equally responsible,” Case said.
They each could have been sentenced to up to 15 years in prison.
The three entered the bank on Dick Road near George Urban Boulevard with a BB gun and forced about a dozen customers and employees to lie on the floor.
One jumped the counter and grabbed an undisclosed amount of money before they all fled.
The crime was not a typical bank robbery in which someone hands a teller a note demanding money without causing a stir or threatening customers, said prosecutor Sara N. Ogden. “This,” she said, “was more of a bank takedown.”
Freeman, for example, threatened to kill people, Ogden said, and the employees and customers feared for their lives and remain scarred today.
“I realize this gun was an unloaded BB gun, but the people in the bank that day didn’t know that,” Case told the robbers at the sentencing. He said he was shocked by the three who stood before him, two of whom said they are full-time students, hold jobs and are parents.
“I’m shocked when I look at these presentence reports,” Case said. “You have minuscule or no [criminal] records at all.”
Normally, when Case sentences bank robbers, they have progressed to that kind of serious crime over the years, beginning with less serious crimes. Case said the three were probably “in as much disbelief as I am” as they stood before him.
The three did not evade Cheektowaga police for long after the holdup. An eyewitness gave police the license plate number of the getaway car.
Also, police tracked the robbers through a global positioning system attached to the stolen money.
The police tracked the money and arrested the three 20 minutes after the robbery in the Allens’ apartment on Mendola on the East Side, the District Attorney’s Office has said.
In September, the three pleaded guilty to second-degree robbery.
The robbers, who were not in custody before the sentencing, hugged and shook hands with family and friends in the public gallery as they were called to the defense table to learn their sentences. Before the hearing, one of the robbers posed for pictures outside the courtroom.
Financial desperation drove them to rob the bank, their lawyers said. All three apologized for the crime.
“We all make mistakes,” Porche Allen told the judge. “Unfortunately, mine was a bigger one. It was an act of desperation. It was out of my character. I can’t apologize enough.”
A presentencing report indicated that Darian Allen Jr. did not show remorse for the crime during his interview with a Probation Department official. But in his appearance before the judge, he said, “I’m truly sorry.”
He apologized to everyone who was inside the bank.
“I want to apologize not only to my friends and family, but to those who were inside the bank,” Freeman said during her time to speak. “I promise you I will grow from this to be a better mother and woman.”
“I’ve grown from this since that day,” she said, referring to the day of the robbery. “I stand before you a better person.”