Three St. John men were arrested last week in connection with robbing Merchants Commercial Bank, above, of more than $47,000.
The presence of Federal Bureau of Investigation, Drug Enforcement Agency and U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents at the V.I. National Park dock in Cruz Bay early Thursday morning, February 2, sent rumors flying across the island.
The droning of a black helicopter which landed in the Sirenusa area of Cruz Bay around 11 a.m. that morning added to the island-wide speculation.
When the dust settled, federal agents had nabbed three St. John men charged in connection with robbing Merchants Commercial Bank in Estate Chocolate Hole just over a year ago.
Kevin Fessale, 22, Shevaun Browne, 24, and Kadeem Thomas, 22, were nabbed by federal officials at various locations on St. John on February 2 and charged in connection with the January 11, 2011 armed robbery of Merchants Commercial Bank, according to a press release issued by the U.S. Department of Justice.
The three men were advised of their rights in federal court on February 2, and charged with robbing the bank of $47,529.38, according to the release.
The robbery occurred around 2 p.m. on January 11, 2011, when two masked men walked into the bank with three firearms and ordered everyone to the ground, according to a V.I. Police Department prepared statement issued at the time.
After sifting through drawers and collecting cash from several desks at the bank, the two fled in a blue GMC Jimmy and had remained at large until last week.
A federal grand jury returned a four-count indictment charging the men with Conspiracy to Interfere with Commerce by Robbery, Bank Robbery and firearm violations. The indictment was returned on Thursday, January 19, and unsealed on February 2, when the three St. John men were arrested, according to the U.S. DOJ release.
The indictment charges Fessale and Thomas with conspiracy to interfere with commerce by robbery, aiding and abetting bank robbery and carrying and using a firearm during the commission of a crime of violence. Browne was charged with conspiracy to interfere with commerce by robbery and aiding and abetting bank robbery.
Surveillance video cameras recorded the men arriving at the bank, recorded the actual robbery as it was taking place and recorded the robbers leaving Merchants Commercial Bank in a blue Chevy Jimmy, which belonged to Browne, according to the DOJ press release.
Fessale, Browne and Thomas were also charged with Hobbs Act conspiracy, according to a report in the V.I. Daily News.
Hobbs Act conspiracy allows the federal government to try robbery cases involving firearms in U.S. District Court, according to the report.
Thomas was arrested in Estate Bethany and Browne was nabbed in the Estate Bellevue affordable housing development on Gifft Hill, while Fessale’s arrest location was not detailed in court documents, according to last week’s V.I. Daily News report.
The defendants are scheduled to be arraigned on Wednesday, February 8, at 9 a.m. before U.S. District Magistrate Ruth Miller, according to the report.
The case is being investigated by the FBI and prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Nelson Jones, according to the US DOJ press release.