2016-09-15 / Front Page

Bank robber caught in Saco sentenced to 15 years

New Hampshire man convicted in spree involving 4 banks
Staff Writer

PORTLAND — A New Hampshire man who was stopped in Saco after a high-speed car chase in September 2015 was sentenced to 15 years in prison Wednesday for robbing banks in Maine and New Hampshire.

Joseph Richards, 47, of Manchester, was sentenced in U.S. District Court by Chief Judge Nancy Torresen, and must also serve five years of supervised release after his prison term, according to a press release from U.S. Attorney Thomas E. Delahanty II.

Richards was charged with armed robbery of four banks in 2015: Norway Savings Bank in Freeport on Aug. 3; Franklin Savings Bank in Franklin, New Hampshire, on Aug. 14; University Credit Union in Portland on Sept. 4; and TD Bank in Lewiston on Sept. 12.

According to court records, Richards used a pellet gun in each robbery and ran off with $5,854 from Norway Savings Bank, $13,240 from Franklin Savings Bank, $12,308 from University Credit Union and $9,888 from TD Bank.

Before imposing the sentence, Torresen said the seriousness of the offenses is impossible to overstate, as people’s lives were put at risk and the emotional harm the tellers suffered will last a lifetime.

In the case of the TD Bank robbery, according to a report from FBI Agent Christopher Peavey, a man wearing a yellow-hooded sweatshirt was seen pointing a handgun at bank employees at the 790 Lisbon St., Lewiston, branch, around 8:45 a.m. Sept. 12, 2015.

The man, later identified as Richards, jumped over the bank counter, removed money from the drawers and ran off with the money in a black trash bag, according to Peavey.

Richards then ran to a dark blue Chrysler Town and Country van with temporary New Hampshire plates. He took off the mask and sweatshirt and left the scene in the van, which was driven by Neil West of Portland.

After a high speed-chase by Maine State Police, the van was forced off the road in the vicinity of Ferry Road in Saco. Both men ran away from the car and were found in the vicinity of Ferry Road.

Richards was carrying a backpack containing $9,870, some of which was wrapped in bank bands, along with a BB gun or pellet gun that resembled a real firearm, according to Peavey. Also in the backpack was a make-up kit, sunglasses and a dreadlock wig used in the Sept. 4, 2015, robbery of University Credit Union in Portland, according to court records.

During a jury trial on July 28 in U.S. District Court in Portland, West was found guilty of armed bank robbery and conspiracy to commit bank robbery for his involvement as the driver not only in the TD Bank robbery, but also at the one at University Credit Union, according to Delahanty.

At the time of the TD Bank robbery, both men were on federal supervised release. West had a prior conviction of accessory after the fact to a bank robbery, and Richards had a prior conviction of bank robbery, according to Peavey.

— Staff Writer Liz Gotthelf can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 325 or egotthelf@journaltribune.com.

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