By Jessica LeDuc
Blade staff writer
Former Concordian Eric Strait has pled guilty to charges of robbing the Jamestown State Bank in 2008, and Ryan Steinert has been indicted on four counts of aiding him in the crime.
James Cross, public information officer for U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom, said that Strait entered a guilty plea on Monday. His sentencing is set for Aug. 5 in federal court in Topeka.
Strait was arrested in November 2012, and charged with one count of bank robbery and one count of brandishing a firearm during a robbery.
The indictment charging Strait alleged he robbed the Jamestown State Bank on Nov. 14, 2008. Witnesses on that day reported that a man walked into the bank wearing camouflage and a black ski mask, and carrying a shotgun and black bag. A witness in the bank during the robbery said the robber threw a duffel bag on the counter and demanded all the money from the teller's drawers. He left the scene in a four-door car.
Count one of the grand jury indictment against Steinert alleges that he conspired with Strait to commit armed bank robbery. The two agreed to rob the Jamestown State Bank using a firearm, and Steinert agreed to assist in the planning and preparation stages, while Strait agreed to execute the robbery alone.
During the planning of the robbery, the indictment said Steinert and Strait agreed to steal a vehicle to use during the robbery, and that they would destroy it after the fact. In addition, the two allegedly agreed to split the proceeds.
On or about Nov. 13, 2008, Strait stole a vehicle from Clyde‚ a 2002 Chevy Malibu‚ with the intent to use it during the robbery. The indictment goes on to say that at that same time, Steinert helped Strait prepare the vehicle by checking the mechanics and wiping down the interior. Strait then moved the vehicle to a "staging" area closer to the bank.
After that, Steinert provided Strait with a shotgun and homemade mask to use during the robbery, the indictment said. Steinert also provided Strait with an electronic scanner to monitor law enforcement activity prior to, during and after the robbery.
On Nov. 14, Strait entered the bank, demanded the teller fill a duffel bag with money, and fled with approximately $5,682 in cash.
Strait fled in the stolen vehicle, then parked it back at the "staging" area, and left in his own vehicle. The two later met and divided the proceeds from the robbery, and attempted to destroy the stolen vehicle.
Steinert also faces counts of armed bank robbery, for aiding and abetting in the robbery, and brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence.
The fourth count against Steinert is obstruction of justice for his part in trying to destroy the stolen vehicle. The indictment alleges Steinert and Strait poured gasoline throughout the vehicle and attempted to set it on fire.
If convicted, Steinert faces a maximum of five years in federal prison on the conspiracy to commit armed bank robbery; a maximum of 25 years for the armed bank robbery charge; no less than seven years for brandishing a firearm; and a maximum of 20 years on the obstruction of justice charge. Each count carries with it a fine up to $250,000.
Strait faces a maximum penalty of 25 years in federal prison and a fine up to $250,000 on the bank robbery charge. He also faces not less than seven years and not more than life with a fine up to $250,000 on the charge of brandishing a firearm in a crime of violence.