Feb. 7--FORT WORTH -- James Edward Geske, Kevin Michael Smith and Alicia Nichole Frazier were convicted Tuesday of plotting to simultaneously rob three banks in downtown Hamilton using military explosives to blow up 15 police cars.
Geske, 27, was the ringleader; Smith, 37, and Frazier, 25, played lesser roles, but jurors found them all guilty of conspiracy. They could be sentenced to life in prison without parole.
The three were arrested Nov. 8, the day that plans for the bank robberies were being finalized. On that day, Geske traded a stash of fake methamphetamine to an undercover federal agent for guns.
"The Arlington Police Department and ATF [Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives] and this jury took three dangerous criminals off the streets, as well as a cache of weapons," federal prosecutor Bret Helmer said. "The end result could have been catastrophic for a lot of people in Hamilton, Texas."
Defense attorneys tried to portray their clients as small-time street characters who talked big but meant little.
The jury deliberated two hours before bringing back guilty verdicts on all four counts against the three defendants.
Geske, Smith and Frazier are scheduled to be sentenced at 9 a.m. May 25 by U.S. District Judge John McBryde.
According to testimony, six partners in three two-person teams were to plant C4 explosive on the rear axles of police cars. The blasts would disable the vehicles and distract the police. The teams would simultaneously rob three banks. The robbers would wear disguises. And masks. Or hats. They would cut and color their hair. They would bring paintballs to disable security cameras. They would bring blue electric tape to obscure the license plates of the vehicles they were using. They would steal a car. They would hide it by a nearby lake. They would use a getaway car and drive it into the lake and then escape in the second vehicle. They would cross state lines. Perhaps they would hide in Kansas.
They knew when the lone security guard went off duty. They knew nobody in the banks would be armed. They knew the banks were small so they didn't need blueprints.
They would sell a pound of methamphetamine to guy named Tony in exchange for the C4 and guns. They would tell Tony that they would get him another $15,000 in cash, or more meth, after the heist to finish the deal.
Several conversations and two key meetings -- one Nov. 7 in a Fort Worth hotel, one Nov. 8 in an Arlington hotel -- would finalize the plan.
The undercover officers
Tony was actually Arlington police Detective Ray Stafford. On Oct. 29, he told Geske that he could supply him with the firearms and explosives. Normally a narcotics officer, Stafford alerted the federal government when it became clear that firearms and explosives were involved. On Nov. 1, Geske told Tony about the plan to blow up the police cars. Tony said he had a friend at ATF named Gus and that they would sell Geske the firearms and explosives for cash or drugs. Gus was actually ATF Special Agent Gustavo Benavides. To sell the undercover deception, Tony bought half an ounce of methamphetamine -- a field test showed it was real -- from Geske on Nov. 3.
On Nov. 4, Tony, Gus and Geske drove to Hamilton to case the First State Bank, ExtraCo Bank and Mills County State Bank. Geske pointed out the sheriff's office and the lake where the getaway car would be sunk. The financial deal for the guns was negotiated by Geske and Gus.
On Nov. 7, the three men met with two of Geske's friends -- Smith and someone named Jeff. Smith and Jeff requested a machine gun and C4 from Tony and Gus. Smith said his friend, Frazier, would also be part of the bank robberies. In a separate conversation, Frazier requested two pistols with silencers from Gus. She also requested blueprints of the banks and threatened to kill Tony and Gus if they were police officers.
The buy, the bust
On Nov. 8, Tony, Gus, Geske, Smith and Frazier met at an Arlington hotel to make the final plans. Downstairs, Geske gave Stafford one pound of fake meth. Geske got firearms and explosives, but was immediately arrested. Upstairs, officers arrested Smith and Frazier.
Bryon Okada, 817-390-7752 firstname.lastname@example.org