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Ex-teller convicted in 3 Phoenix-area bank heists

PHOENIX — A former teller has been convicted of orchestrating three bank robberies in the Phoenix metropolitan area in 2012.

Federal prosecutors said Wednesday that Joel Leon Thomas Jr. was found guilty of conspiracy to commit bank robbery, aiding and abetting armed bank robbery and using a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence.

Thomas, 23, is scheduled to be sentenced on July 7 in U.S. District Court in Phoenix.

Evidence at trial showed Thomas, of El Mirage, provided inside information to his co-conspirators about bank security measures to craft plans to rob three banks in January and February 2012.

The conspiracy targeted banks Thomas worked at in Surprise, Sun City and Peoria.

Thomas orchestrated two bank robberies at gunpoint, prosecutors said. In one of those heists, he posed as a victim bank teller as he loaded $246,000 from the vault into a duffel bag for an armed robber who was his friend, they added.

In a third bank robbery, the conspirators recruited two homeless men to demand money from a bank teller inside a busy grocery store and turn the cash over to Thomas and the other defendants.

Authorities later seized about $150,000 in stolen money from the suspects' homes along with bank-robbery demand notes and a hand-drawn diagram of a bank.

The five others charged in the case all pleaded guilty, prosecutors said.

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