St. Mary's Bank Heist Plot Made for the Movies

By Matt Zapotosky
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 7, 2008

For several weeks, police said, the suspects secretly watched the bank manager, noting when she arrived at work and how she got there.

They staked out the PNC branch, across from a busy strip mall in Southern Maryland, and surveyed traffic patterns and possible escape routes.

"It's pretty clear that they did their homework," said Lt. Rick Burris, commander of the St. Mary's Bureau of Criminal Investigations.

Then, before dawn Sept. 24, police said, they executed an audacious plan: kidnap the manager and force her to rob the bank while they held her toddler son hostage outside.

Yesterday, as two of the suspects were ordered held without bond, authorities provided a detailed account of how three men and a woman allegedly carried out a bank robbery scheme fit for a movie. The other two suspects, the men accused of abducting the bank manager and her young children at gunpoint, were arrested over the weekend in Raleigh, N.C.

Investigators recovered about $110,000 of the stolen money Friday, much of it in two safes buried in the back yard of suspect Joseph F. Brown, police said. He and the other three gambled away the rest, about $58,000, in Atlantic City, or spent it on clothes, computers, iPods and plane tickets to Las Vegas, police said.

"All the co-conspirators basically went on a shopping spree," Burris said.

The four are charged in a plan so unusual that suspicion fell for a time on the bank manager herself, Latoya Booth. Yesterday, authorities said neither she nor any other bank employee is thought to have been involved.

Police described Brown, 36, of the St. Mary's town of California, and Edwin J. Jones, 40, of Lexington Park as the "main planners" of the robbery. They and the other two -- Brown's girlfriend, Quinita J. Ennis, 30, and William C. Johnson, 37 -- are charged with kidnapping and other offenses.

Johnson, who police said uses the nickname "Back Road Billy," and Brown were arrested Saturday in North Carolina and were awaiting extradition. Ennis and Jones were arrested Friday night in Lexington Park.

Ennis and Jones did not have attorneys at yesterday's bond hearing at St. Mary's District Court, and attorneys for Brown and Johnson could not be identified. Efforts to reach the defendants' families were unsuccessful.

At the bond hearing, Jones told a judge he was working at his job as a landscaper at the time of the bank robbery.

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