Nine city residents indicted in string of bank robberies

October 25, 2003|By Laurie Willis | Laurie Willis,SUN STAFF

A federal grand jury indicted nine Baltimore residents yesterday in a series of bank robberies authorities say were masterminded by a convict in a halfway house.

The robberies occurred between July 23 and Oct. 17 at several banks, including an M&T Bank in Owings Mills and another one in Catonsville, Wachovia Bank branches in Lutherville and Towson, and a First Mariner Bank branch in Glen Burnie.

More than $100,000 was taken from several banks, according to an indictment filed yesterday by U.S. Attorney Thomas M. DiBiagio.

Mario D. Simuel, 39, also known as "Blue," was in the Volunteers of America halfway house when he allegedly recruited several people to commit the robberies, the indictment says. Officials say Simuel scoped out banks for others to rob, promised them a share of the proceeds and provided clothes, masks, gloves and other supplies used in the robberies.

Cierra Danita Dillard, 18, who also went by the names "Baby," "Big Baby" and "Little Gangsta," and Devon Wendell Little, 39, were among the getaway drivers for the holdups, authorities say. They have been charged and are being held in the Baltimore County robberies.

Simuel is in federal custody, awaiting a detention hearing on Wednesday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Beth P. Gesner.

Also charged as co-conspirators in connection with the robberies are: Duane Curtis Chase, 43; Joseph Shawn McKenny, 35; Kevin Thomas McNeill, also 35; Kafia Joneifa Burnett, 19; Kenneth James Eads, 32 and Shatika Nicole Lawson, 24.

The maximum sentence for armed bank robbery is 25 years.

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