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Second man sentenced in Highland bank robbery

EAST ST. LOUIS – A second Michigan man has been sentenced for his role in the Valentine’s Day robbery of a bank in Highland.

Stephen R. Wigginton, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Illinois, said Alexander P. Gerth, 18, of Troy, Mich., was sentenced Friday by Chief Judge David R. Herndon.

Gerth received 57 months’ imprisonment, three years’ supervised release, and a $100 special assessment, following his plea of guilty, on April 7, 2014. The charges relate to the robbery of the Bradford National Bank in Highland. His co-defendant, Ramsey Z. Fakhouri, was sentenced July 11 to 78 months’ imprisonment.

Fakhouri and Gerth lived in Michigan, but Fakhouri had a girlfriend who worked at the bank in Highland, Wigginton said. While talking with the girlfriend long-distance one day, Fakhouri put the call on speaker phone so that Gerth could hear the girlfriend unwittingly give details about bank’s procedures in stocking its ATM, which was located outside and away from the bank building.

Gerth and Fakhouri decided to rob the bank employee who filled the ATM. They drove all night from Michigan to Illinois, then waited for the bank to open. When an employee came out to fill the ATM, Gerth, masked and armed with what looked like a gun (it was actually an air gun), forced the employee to give him the cash from the ATM. Gerth returned to the car, and Fakhouri drove the car away from the bank.

The unsuspecting girlfriend soon texted Fakhouri about the bank robbery and about her own fears – she had watched helplessly from inside the bank while her fellow employee had been robbed. Fakhouri decided to return by bus to comfort his girlfriend. Gerth drove Fakhouri’s car back to Michigan.

On Feb. 16, 2014, the girlfriend received an email on her cell phone that contained photos of the alleged bank robbers. Fakhouri tried to explain that although one of the images was of him, he had nothing to do with the bank robbery. He rode with his girlfriend to the Highland Police Department to try to convince the police that he had not been involved in the robbery.

The police did not believe his story and arrested him. Eventually, however, Fakhouri admitted that he and Gerth had come from Michigan to rob the bank. Gerth was then arrested in Michigan; the air gun that he had used in the robbery was in his backpack.

Police were able to recover most of the money that Gerth and Fakhouri stole.

The case was investigated by members of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Highland Police Department. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen B. Clark.

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