Paroled felon returns to prison for 2016 heist at Wyoming bank

Bank robbery sentencing

GRAND RAPIDS, MICH. - A paroled felon convicted of robbing a Fifth Third bank branch in Wyoming last summer was sentenced to 14 years in federal prison.

The July 20, 2016 robbery on 54th Street just west of South Division Avenue netted Joseph Allen Elllsworth about $7,300.

U.S. District Court Judge Paul L. Maloney ordered that Ellsworth pay restitution and serve four years on supervised release once he gets out of prison.

Ellsworth was charged with robbing the same bank twice. The first hold-up occurred July 11 and the second robbery occurred nine days later. A federal jury in April found him not guilty of the first robbery.

At sentencing, one of the victims addressed the court, saying she initially moved away from the Grand Rapids area due to the fear the robbery instilled in her.

“I know I will forever struggle with the emotional and mental effects of these crimes,’’ the woman said, according to an Aug. 22 news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office. “I am not sure I will ever fully recover.”

Maloney said that Ellsworth repeatedly took advantage of others to get what he wanted and committed three home invasions in the period leading up to the bank robbery, according to the news release.

Federal prosecutors say there was evidence Ellsworth used the stolen loot “to purchase marijuana on multiple occasions,’’ court records show.

The first hold-up occurred about 12:30 p.m. Investigators say the suspect displayed a gun during the robbery. He was dressed in dark clothes and wore a mask and green gloves. The suspect was last seen running west from the bank.

The July 20 robbery took place about 2:17 p.m. when a man entered the bank wearing a mask. He demanded money from a bank employee at gunpoint.

Hidden in the cash was a dye pack, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Ellsworth left by foot and ran west to the Inter-Urban Trail, where he recovered a bike and rode south, investigators said.

During their search, police eventually saw Ellsworth, causing him to drop the bike and flee into nearby woods, according to the news release. Police recovered the bike, which was stained from the dye pack and had Ellsworth’s DNA on its handlebars. A subsequent search of Ellsworth’s phone revealed pictures of dye-stained money, the government said in the news release. He was arrested last September after reporting to his state parole officer.

In a sentencing memorandum, defense attorney Christopher Gibbons said Ellsworth, 32, had a troubled childhood and was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder.

He received medication to manage his condition while in prison, but “began to encounter difficulty obtaining his medication’’ after being released on parole in November, 2015, Gibbons wrote.

“He began, as many do in the absence of traditional medicine, to treat his mood swings with marijuana and alcohol use,’’ Gibbons wrote, adding that Ellwsorth’s mental health and judgment was compromised.

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