PHOENIXVILLE — Thanks in part to tips from the public, a Delaware County man has been charged with robbing the same Phoenixville bank twice this year.
“If you rob a bank, we are going to track you down and lock you up,” said Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan in a press release issued Thursday evening. “Every bank robbery includes the danger of death, whether we are talking about the terrified employees of the bank, the innocent civilian customers of the bank or the responding police officer. In Chester County, we come down hard on bank robbers.”
Brown does not match the description of suspects in a Wells Fargo bank branch robbery in East Pikeland earlier this week.
Brown was arraigned before District Judge Analisa Sondergaard for two charges each of felony robbery through threats, felony robbery of a financial institution, one felony charge of theft by unlawful take and one misdemeanor charge of it, one felony receiving stolen property and one misdemeanor and two misdemeanor charges of terroristic threats.
He also stands charged with carrying a firearm without a license, possession of a weapon and recklessly endangering another person.
“This case was solved by the combined efforts of the Phoenixville Police, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the help of concerned citizens,” said Phoenixville Police Chief William Mossman. “Citizen tips resulted in key leads that broke this case open. It is very important for citizens to come forward with information so that police can keep violent criminals off the streets.”
In the first robbery on the morning of Feb. 20, according to an affidavit of probable cause filed by Phoenixville Police Detective Joe Nemic, a tall, thin, white man described as being in his 20s “with dark hair and a short beard, wearing a dark gray hooded sweatshirt with a zipper and blue jeans, knit hat and dark sunglasses entered the bank and approached a teller station.”
He allegedly demanded money, didn’t display a weapon but “implied that he had a gun.”
“The subject spoke with a deep voice and stated, ‘Give me all your money — nobody move and I won’t shoot anyone,’” the affidavit said.
When the bank manager came out of his office, the robber allegedly threatened to shoot him if he came closer and “pointed his finger at the manager as if it were a gun.”
After taking the money, the suspect fled south on Main Street.
In the second robbery, which occurred just before noon April 16, a suspect with a similar description, this time wearing a black hooded jacket, jeans, “a red baseball cap and large frame sunglasses” entered the Phoenixville Federal Bank and Trust and approached the teller station displaying “a black revolver with a white grip.”
Pointing the gun at a teller, the suspect again demanded money and again fled south on Main Street with the stolen cash.
It was not stated how much money was taken in either robbery, nor if it has been recovered.
Police determined after the second robbery through surveillance footage that they were dealing with the same suspect as the first robbery.
Phoenixville police cycled a wanted poster around town and through the media beginning April 22 and May 3, a tip came in on the first robbery from a former employer of Brown’s.
Then, Sept. 6, the former employer was interviewing a potential applicant for his business who turned out to be a longtime friend of Brown’s according to police. In talking, the friend remembered a day in April when he and his girlfriend drove Brown to Phoenixville from his then-residence in Royersford.
The friend and his girlfriend spoke with police about the second robbery, saying they picked up Brown wearing a “heavy black jacket with a hood” and a red baseball cap.
“The couple recalled that it was warm and sunny that day and they questioned Brown about his choice of clothing,” the affidavit said.
Brown asked if they could stop in Phoenixville to retrieve money from his mother’s home and proceeded to have them stop on the 200 block of Hall Street, police said.
He allegedly asked to borrow the sunglasses the girlfriend was wearing, then got out of the car and headed east toward Main Street.
“A few minutes later, Brown returned to the car wearing the sunglasses and the hood was still over his head,” the affidavit said. “Brown seemed anxious and produced several hundred dollars in cash and proceeded to count the money in the back seat while they were driving.”
After a quick stop so the couple could pay for a recent rental, the three drove to Philadelphia, police said.
“A few days later, (Brown’s friend) received a text message on his mobile telephone from Michael Brown,” according to the affidavit. “The text message included a photo of a black revolver with a white grip and Brown asked (his friend) if he knew anyone who wanted to buy a gun.”
After confirming pieces of the friend’s story, Phoenixville Police also determined Brown’s mother does not live near the intersection of Hall and Main Street. The friend also reportedly identified the clothing and the revolver in the surveillance photos.
Phoenixville Police arrested Brown Wednesday with the assistance of the Upper Darby Township Police and the Springfield (Delco) Township Police.
In lieu of $250,000 cash bail, Brown was sent to Chester County Prison.
“This was an excellent investigation by the Phoenixville Police Department and the FBI,” Hogan said. “Chester County law enforcement works hand-in-hand with our federal partners to keep our county safe.”