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Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

Northern District of Alabama

For Immediate Release

January 12, 2012

Joyce White Vance, United States Attorney

Contact: Peggy Sanford, Director of Community Relations
(205) 244-2020

Federal Judge Sentences Armed Robbers to Long Prison Terms

BIRMINGHAM — A federal judge today sentenced two Birmingham men to long prison terms for their parts in a series of violent robberies in the Birmingham area between December 2009 and March 2010, announced U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance, ATF Special Agent in Charge Glenn Anderson and FBI Special Agent in Charge Patrick Maley.

U.S. District Judge L. Scott Coogler sentenced ANTOINE JAMAR HARPER to 39 years and three months in prison and AARON THOMAS to 72 years and seven months in prison.

Harper, 29, pleaded guilty in September to a March 22, 2010, armed robbery at the Diamond World jewelry store in Hoover, separate armed robberies in January 2010 and March 2010 at a Cash America store on Parkway East in Birmingham, and a Jan. 15, 2010, attempted armed robbery at the BB&T Bank on Red Lane Road in Birmingham. Harper also pleaded guilty to charges of brandishing a gun during a crime of violence at both the Diamond World robbery and the attempted BB&T robbery.

Harper committed the January 2010 Cash America robbery and attempted robbery of the BB&T Bank with co-defendant Thomas, 34. Thomas pleaded guilty to those charges and to brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence in both of those cases. Thomas also pleaded guilty to armed robberies at the Shoe Show on Parkway East and at the Church’s Chicken on First Avenue North in Birmingham in December 2009. He pleaded guilty to discharging a firearm during a crime of violence in the Shoe Show robbery, and pleaded guilty to being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm in connection to a Jan. 4, 2010, robbery at a Dollar General Store on Parkway East.

The defendants sentenced today worked together in armed robberies that threatened the life and emotional well–being of innocent victims inside the businesses that were robbed, Vance said. Because of the collaborative work of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and
Explosives, the FBI and the Hoover and Birmingham police departments, we were able to remove a group of dangerous criminals from the streets,
she said.

Without a doubt, armed robbery cases can quickly turn into senseless tragedies for a customer, a merchant, a passerby or the responding police officer, Anderson said. Today’s sentences send a definite message to those involved that will resonate with them for the many years they will spend in federal prison. The Greater Birmingham area can rest a little easier knowing these defendants are off our streets. Those who choose to follow a similar path in life will continue to be the focus of ATF and our law enforcement partners, he said.

National security is as much about keeping our streets safe from crime as it is about protecting the United States from terrorist attack, and that is why the FBI will continue to address, along with our partners, violent criminals such as those sentenced today, Maley said.

Harper and Thomas were indicted along with Omari Elliot, 30, Derrick Craig, 28, and Kendra Neshell Bowie, 27, in February 2011. Elliot was convicted in separate trials last year for armed robbery of the Diamond World and for armed robbery and using a firearm during a crime of violence in the March 2010 Cash America robbery. He is scheduled for sentencing Jan. 25.

Craig and Bowie were charged in connection with the Diamond World robbery. Bowie pleaded guilty to being an accessory after the fact and was sentenced in December to 26 months in prison.

Craig pleaded guilty in August 2011 to armed robbery and brandishing a firearm during the Diamond World robbery. He also is scheduled for sentencing Jan. 25.

The five defendants were charged together in the case that involved the series of crimes that were similar in nature, occurred within a short time frame and were part of a larger scheme. Thomas was charged in five robberies; Harper in four; Elliot in two and Craig and Bowie in one.

The ATF, FBI, and the Birmingham and Hoover police departments investigated the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph P. Montminy and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris Johnson prosecuted the offenses committed by Harper. Assistant U.S. Attorney Enid Dean Athanas assisted Montminy with the Thomas prosecution.