Ex-city police officer gets 14 years for bank robberies

He stole $250,000, lost much of it gambling

March 03, 2001|By Gail Gibson | Gail Gibson,SUN STAFF

A former Baltimore police lieutenant who robbed two city banks at gunpoint to feed a gambling addiction was sentenced yesterday to 14 years in federal prison after he tearfully apologized for the pain he had caused his family and fellow officers.

"I was a good person for a lot of years," Michael Timothy Snow said, sobbing as he stood before a federal judge and a packed courtroom. "I loved being a cop. I am ashamed to be here today."

Snow, 39, once recognized nationally for his police work, admitted last year that he committed four robberies at two bank branches in southern Baltimore. Federal authorities said Snow stole more than $250,000, much of which he gambled away in slot machines at Delaware racetracks.

For Baltimore police, Snow's arrest was a high-profile corruption case. The 19-year veteran brandished his police-issued Glock 9 mm handgun during two of the robberies and visited one branch in uniform two days before he returned in a disguise to rob it, according to FBI agents. In one robbery, he struck the branch manager on the back of the head with his gun and locked three employees in a closet.

In handing down yesterday's sentence, U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz called the case a tragedy. The saddest irony, Motz told Snow, is that "the profession you love and devoted yourself to is a victim of your actions."

Motz ordered Snow to undergo treatment for his gambling addiction and urged him to find ways in prison, and after his release, to continue doing the kind of good deeds he performed for almost two decades on the city police force.

"There is only one thing you said that you were wrong - that you used to be a good person," Motz said. "You have as much good in you today as you did the day that you were born."

In halting speech to the judge, Snow said his one ambition was to be a good cop. He talked about shooting a man who was stabbing his wife as their child looked on. Snow also recounted his frantic efforts to save a small girl who had been injured when the intoxicated driver of the car she was riding in slammed into a building.

"I couldn't save her," Snow said, telling how he tried to resuscitate the toddler as she was being rushed to the hospital. "That's the face that sticks out most."

In 1993, Snow was one of nine officers nationwide to receive honorable mentions for Police Officer of the Year, sponsored by Parade magazine and the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

Even from jail, Snow helped fight crime. He testified during the murder trial of Jonathon David Smith in Easton this week that while confined in the Talbot County Detention Center during the past year, Smith confessed to Snow his role in the stabbing death in 1987 of 64-year-old Adeline Virginia "Curly" Wilford. Smith was convicted Thursday.

"I've had lots of bad days over the last 10 months," Snow told Motz yesterday about his time in jail. "Christmas and Thanksgiving were terrible. But last Friday, I couldn't talk to anybody, because that would have been my 20th anniversary with the police force."

Snow did not speak in court about his gambling problem. Before FBI agents arrested him in May for the bank robberies, though, there had been signs of trouble. In August 1998, Snow was charged in state court with robbing a tow truck driver in Baltimore County. Prosecutors dismissed the charges, but Snow was assigned to desk duty and stripped him of his arrest powers.

Snow pleaded guilty in December in federal court to bank robbery, armed bank robbery and use of a handgun in a violent crime.

Authorities said he held up two branches of Bay Vanguard Federal Savings Bank - one in the 1500 block of E. Fort Ave. twice and one in the 1200 block of Light St. twice - from December 1996 to May 1999. Snow was armed in three robberies. He carried his police weapon twice and once displayed a gun authorities said was his own.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Gregory Welsh said Snow owes restitution of more than $200,000 to the bank and its bonding company. Acknowledging that it is unlikely Snow will be able to repay that amount, Motz directed Snow to pay $50 a month during the five years of supervised release he must serve after leaving prison.

Snow will not receive his city pension and is financially ruined, Assistant U.S. Public Defender James Wyda said. But the greatest toll has been on his family, Wyda said. Snow is divorced and has a young son, Michael. He is engaged to remarry.

Snow told Motz he considered suicide after his arrest but knew he could not inflict any more pain on his family. "I wouldn't be here today if I had ended this, but I could never do that to them," he said.

Many of Snow's relatives, former colleagues and friends were in the courtroom yesterday morning and wept softly when Snow spoke. Three bank employees also were in court. In written statements to Motz, they said the case had shaken their faith in local police.

William Welch was the manager who was hit in the head when Snow robbed the Fort Avenue branch the day after Christmas 1997, two days before Welch was to go on his honeymoon.

"Tim Snow broke our trust that day," Welch said in his written statement. In court yesterday, he told Motz that his workers still fear retaliation. "None of us certainly wants to be working at that institution when he is released."

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