Browne Gets 13+ Years for Merchant’s Bank Armed Robbery; Thomas Sentenced to 12 Years; Fassale Gets 2-Year Plea Deal

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District Court Judge Curtis Gomez handed down sentences to Shevaun Browne, 24, Kadeem Thomas, 22, and Keven Fessale, 22, this month for their roles in the January 2011 armed robbery of Merchant’s Commercial Bank in Estate Chocolate Hole.

Gomez sentenced Browne to 13 years and nine months in jail and Thomas to 12 years behind bars in U.S. District Court on August 6, according to a report in the V.I. Daily News.

Fessale, who agreed to a plea deal and testified against Browne and Thomas, was sentenced to two years in jail, according to the report.

The three were convicted of armed robbery and Hobbs Act Conspiracy, which deals with the obstruction of commerce or the movement of a commodity by robbery, in March.

During their trial, prosecutors painted Browne as the ring-leader of the trio, who conceived of the idea of the robbery and used his vehicle as the get-away car.

Fessale and Thomas, wearing masks and carrying three firearms, entered Merchant’s Bank on the afternoon of January 11, 2011 and ordered everyone to the ground. The two sifted through drawers and took cash from several bank employees’ desks, collecting a total of $47,529.38 before fleeing in Browne’s GMC Jimmy.

The three had remained at large on St. John for almost a year before being nabbed in a federal sting operation in February 2012.

Before sentencing the three St. John men on August 6, Gomez chastised St. John Administrator Leona Smith and V.I. Port Authority Chief Wharfinger Elrod Hendricks for submitting letters supporting the convicted bank robbers, according to the report in the V.I. Daily News.

Smith’s letter, dated May 30, was sent on letterhead from the Office of the Governor and called Browne an “accountable” and “courteous individual,” according to the V.I. Daily News report.

“I ask the Legal System for leniency on behalf of this young man so that he may continue to be productive in society,” Smith wrote, according to the report.

While Hendricks’ letter, urging leniency for Thomas, was not on government letterhead, he did include his VIPA title below his signature, according to the report in V.I. Daily News.

In his letter, which was undated, Hendricks called Thomas “a great young man” who “would not get himself caught up in this situation,” according to the report.

Both Thomas and Browne filed notices stating their intentions to appeal to the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, according to the report.