A Fort Wayne man was sentenced to just over 14 years in federal prison for planning a failed credit union robbery in July 2015 in Grant County.
Freddie L. Church, 39, was sentenced Wednesday in U.S. District Court to 170 months in prison and two years of probation for casing and attempting to rob Via Credit Union in Marion.
Church originally was charged with four counts relating to the bank heist, but was sentenced on two counts — 110 months and one year of probation for attempting to affect commerce by threat or violence and 60 months and two years of probation for carrying a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence and forfeiture, according to court documents.
Church, considered the leader of the robbery plot that included three additional men and one woman, was monitored by officers in July 2015 in the area of Southbridge Apartments.
Law enforcement officers who performed the surveillance reported two cars left Fort Wayne on July 2, 2015, traveled south on Interstate 69 to Grant County at exit 264. They observed one car stopped at a gas station directly across the street from Via credit union while the other car drove by the credit union at least four times, signifying their attempt to case the credit union, according to officers in the complaint.
The next day the two vehicles left Fort Wayne before 9 a.m., traveling once more to the Marion credit union. Officers said one car stopped at the gas station without pumping gas or entering the store while the other car drove past the credit union several times, including two times when the car stopped in middle of the street, where one or more of the occupants got out of the car but then entered the car and drove around again, perhaps in an attempt to enter the credit union with as few customers as possible, the complaint said.
The car pulled into the parking lot at about 10 a.m. and found the doors of the credit union were locked. Members of the Northeast Indiana Federal Bank Robbery Task Force had notified employees of Via Credit Union of the probable robbery, informing the employees to park in the lot as usual to make Church and the rest of the group think the credit union was open for business, according to the complaint.
After tugging on the front door, the group ran back to the car and fled the area only to be stopped by officers. Police found one man had white zip-ties in his front hoodie pocket with his mask on the floor of the car. Another man wore all black clothing, a black mask and gloves and also had white zip-ties in the front pocket of his pants. A backpack and gun were on the floor in front of where that man was seated, the complaint said.
Police took into custody the woman who was waiting at the gas station across the street from the credit union. During the police interview, the woman admitted involvement in the bank robbery attempt, according to the complaint.