Three Texas men have pleaded guilty to a Florida bank robbery conspiracy where the trio attached chains to ATM machines to yank off the covers, exposing the cash.

Three Texas Men Plead Guilty To Florida Bank Robbery Conspiracy, Heisting ATM Machines

 United States Attorney Roger B. Handberg announces that Roderick Tyree Irvin (28), Christopher Merchant (22), and Hakeem Thomas (26), all of Houston, Texas have pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bank robbery and bank robbery. They each face a maximum penalty of 5 years in federal prison for the conspiracy offense, and up to, 20 years’ imprisonment for the bank robbery offense.
Hakeem Thomas, 26, Christopher Merchant, 22, and Roderick Tyree Irvin, 28, (No Mugshot Available)

Three Texas men have pleaded guilty to a Florida bank robbery conspiracy where the trio attached chains to ATM machines to yank off the covers, exposing the cash.

Roderick Tyree Irvin (28), Christopher Merchant (22), and Hakeem Thomas (26), all of Houston, Texas have pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bank robbery and bank robbery.

They each face a maximum penalty of 5 years in federal prison for the conspiracy offense, and up to, 20 years’ imprisonment for the bank robbery offense.

According to court documents, around 3:00 a.m. on July 29, 2021, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office responded to a burglary at the SunTrust Bank located on Memorial Highway in Tampa.

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Investigators determined that suspects had attached chains to the Automatic Teller Machine (ATM) which was part of the SunTrust Bank building, and then attached those chains to a stolen pickup truck.

The suspects then used the truck to attempt to pull the protective outer covering off the ATM machine to expose the cash held inside. The defendants were captured on surveillance video by the ATM.

Responding deputies found a stolen Ford pickup truck, with chains still attached to it, abandoned near the damaged ATM. They followed the trail and using a police helicopter, eventually located three suspects – Irvin, Merchant, and Thomas – hiding nearby in a getaway car.

The car attempted to flee from deputies but became disabled when it hit a large rock. The three occupants bailed out of the car and ran away but were all arrested following a brief foot pursuit. Clothing items and other materials used in the ATM burglary were recovered from the car and the three suspects.

Around the same time, law enforcement learned of a similar burglary, an hour earlier, of an ATM which was part of the USF Federal Credit Union building located on E. Fletcher Avenue, in Temple Terrace.

Like the SunTrust Bank ATM, the USF Credit Union ATM was first attacked by hand using crowbars, and then heavy chains attached to a pickup truck in an attempt to try and break open the cash vault inside the machine.

Deputies also learned that the pickup recovered near the SunTrust Bank had been stolen from a Residence Inn hotel located around the corner from the USF Credit Union. The defendants were captured on surveillance video by that ATM as well.

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During the arrest of Irvin, Mitchell, and Merchant, deputies located and seized several cell phones.

A federal search warrant was executed on these phones and data was extracted and analyzed by the FBI. In addition to placing the three defendants in proximity to these burglaries, cellular records also placed them and other coconspirators at the scene of, or in the area of, multiple other similar ATM burglaries within the Middle District of Florida and elsewhere.

The investigation determined that Irvin, Mitchell, and Merchant and his coconspirators would travel around the district and elsewhere, identify, and then target ATMs attached to Bank and Credit Union buildings.

Coconspirators would steal a pickup truck near the Bank or Credit Union and attach heavy chains, which would be used to pull the protective outer covering off the ATM to expose the cash inside.

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