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U.S. Department of Justice
United States Attorney
District of Montana
For Immediate Release
August 18, 2010
Michael W. Cotter, United States Attorney
Contact: Sally Frank
William Michael Lapp, Jr. Pleads Guilty in U.S. Federal Court
The United States Attorney’s Office announced that during a federal court session in Helena, on August 18, 2010, before Senior U.S. District Judge Charles C. Lovell, WILLIAM MICHAEL LAPP, JR., a 37-year-old resident of Kalispell/Helena, pled guilty to robbery affecting commerce and use of a firearm during the commission of a crime of violence. Sentencing has been set for November 18. He is currently detained.
In an Offer of Proof filed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Paulette L. Stewart, the government stated it would have proved at trial the following:
On January 31, 2008, LAPP was convicted in Toole County of felony criminal possession of dangerous drugs for which he received a three year suspended sentence consecutive to a previous conviction in Flathead County. As a result of this conviction, he was prohibited from possessing firearms.
On July 29, 2009, LAPP entered a casino in Kalispell. The attendant, BH, was alone in the casino when a man (later identified as LAPP) entered and asked if the casino was still open. LAPP asked BH to make change so the attendant pulled out her cash roll from her apron. LAPP immediately brandished a chrome revolver from his waist area and pointed it at her. LAPP demanded her cash and any money from the safe. BH responded that there was no safe, and he told her
you better not be lying. LAPP then ordered her out the back door of the casino. BH feared that he was going to shoot her in the back. Once BH was in the alley, LAPP followed her and ordered her back into the casino. BH last saw LAPP walking northbound in the alley. BH described the suspect as 20-25 years old, approximately 6 foot with blue eyes, wearing a gray hooded sweatshirt, blue jeans and white tennis shoes. BH later described the handgun as a big silver revolver, likely a large caliber revolver as she is somewhat familiar with firearms. Approximately $1,700 was taken from the casino.
On October 26, 2009, BH was shown a line-up with LAPP’s photo, and although she kept going back to LAPP as the robber, she could not rule out one of the others.
On August 3, 2009, LAPP entered a casino in Great Falls. About 30 minutes prior to the robbery, LAPP had entered the casino and asked for the bathroom. After LAPP exited the bathroom, he ordered a beer. TM, the attendant, asked for identification and LAPP provided an ID. LAPP began to play one of the machines. TM asked LAPP if he wanted another beer, and he declined. LAPP then approached TM at the bar where he brandished and laid a handgun on the bar. He stated,
Don’t panic. I don’t want to hurt you, but I will if I have to. LAPP put the handgun back in his waistband and demanded all of the money from the till. After he received the money from the till, he instructed TM to go to the bathroom and count to 100. TM did as instructed. She heard a car start in the parking lot and drive off, but she did not see the vehicle. TM contacted the police after she left the bathroom. TM also noticed that the suspect took his beer glass with him. TM later positively identified LAPP from a photo lineup after LAPP’s October arrest in Helena. Approximately $5,700 was taken from the casino.
On September 26, 2009, LAPP entered a casino in Butte. The attendant, LH, locked the door at closing time to the casino. LAPP came to the door, knocked on it and said he left his cell phone in the casino. LH initially told him that she would look for the cell phone, but let him inside. They walked over to the machine that LAPP played and LH started to look for the cell phone. At a point, LH looked up and LAPP was pointing a handgun at her. LAPP said,
give me all your money, I won’t hurt you. Just do what I say. LH did as LAPP instructed. She also asked him to come around the bar to ensure he got all of the money, and to get him on camera. LAPP stopped at the end of the bar where he would be out of the camera’s view. LAPP took the money from the till and her apron. He asked for her cell phone but she did not have one. He then told LH to go to the bathroom and count to 100. She asked him not to kill her and he said that he would not. LH went to the bathroom and stayed there until she heard the door beeper indicate that he left the casino. LH verified that he was gone, contacted the police, and locked the door. While she was locking the door, she observed a red truck turning north onto Harrison Avenue. LH described the suspect as approximately 25 years old, 6 foot 2 inches, medium build, blonde hair, no facial hair, wearing baggy jeans and a two toned sweater with a dark torso and light colored sleeves as well as a light colored cap. The handgun was grayish in color with black handles - she later clarified that it was likely a revolver but she had limited knowledge of firearms. LH stated that LAPP played a machine at the south side of the casino. When he left the casino the first time, he cashed a game ticket for $30. LH later identified LAPP in a photo lineup after LAPP’s October arrest in Helena. Approximately $3,000 was taken from the casino.
On October 24, 2009, LAPP entered the a casino in Helena. EM, the attendant, was the only employee working when LAPP asked her to break at $20 bill. LAPP ordered a beer and she requested identification. LAPP gave her a Montana diver’s license. EM recalled his last name as LAPP or Ladd and that he was born in 1982. EM gave LAPP his beer and he moved to a gaming machine. When two other customers were in the casino, LAPP moved from machine to machine. After the other customers left, LAPP approached her while she was behind the bar and stated,
I hate to do this, but I need all your cash. He lifted up his jacket and showed her the black butt of a handgun in his waistband. EM immediately complied. She placed the cash from the register on the bar. He asked if there was more, so she gave him a brown cash box. He also asked for the money in her apron but told her to keep her tip money. LAPP then directed her to the women’s bathroom and told her he would not shoot her. He took her cell phone and told her to count to 100 before leaving the bathroom. When EM left the bathroom, LAPP was gone and she called 911. EM described the suspect as a white male with a sandy blonde goatee, he wore a two tone black and cream colored ski jacket, light colored blue jeans, and tennis shoes. EM then positively identified LAPP from a Montana driver’s license photo provided by the local police detective.
LAPP’s Montana probation officer conducted a probation search of his residence that evening based on this information. During the search, the probation officer located a beige/tan lockbox that matched the description of the cash box taken from the casino which contained approximately $6,000 cash. She also located a .357 Ruger revolver with a chrome finish and black rubber grips on the kitchen table loaded with six rounds of ammunition.
A review of LAPP’s cell phone records and hits from various cell phone towers in Montana were consistent with his presence near each robbery site.
LAPP faces possible penalties of 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and at least 3 years supervised release. In addition, LAPP faces the possibility of an additional mandatory minimum of 25 years in prison and could be sentenced to life, consecutive to any other sentence, for the use of a firearm during the commission of a crime of violence.
The investigation was a cooperative effort between the Kalispell Police Department, the Butte-Silver Bow Law Enforcement Agency, the Great Falls Police Department, the Helena Police Department, the Montana Department of Justice, Montana Probation and Parole and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
A copy of the Offer of Proof can be obtained by contacting Sally Frank at (406) 247-4638.