Driver of Armored Car Gets 18 Months

Driver of Armored Car Gets 18 Months

Oxon Hill man last of four Prince George's residents sentenced in Wheaton armored car robbery
By Amber Parcher - Staff Writer - The Gazette - July 25, 2009

The driver of an armored car that serviced ATMs in the Washington, D.C., area was sentenced to 18 months in prison last week for conspiring to steal more than $588,000 from the vehicle while it was parked in Wheaton, the U.S. attorney for the District of Maryland reported.

Bennie Hugh Pelham, 35, of Oxon Hill worked as an ATM technician for a company that delivers and replenishes the machines with cash, the U.S. Attorney's Office reported.

Pelham's lawyer, Silver Spring based James Papirmeister, said his client's sentencing was "very fair in light of the circumstances."

"It's an unfortunate situation and completely out of character for my client in his entire life." Papirmeister said.

Papirmeister said Pelham was widely considered an exemplary employee in his 19 years as a welder in the Army Corps of Engineers, but he suffered emotional and financial difficulties after his divorce that led to him making a bad decision.

According to his plea agreement, Pelham, Gary Gregory Lane Jr., 27, also of Oxon Hill, and Edward Lewis Mayo, 35, of Temple Hills developed a plan in June 2008 to steal more than a half-million dollars from the armored car Pelham drove alone on the weekends.

They agreed that Lane would steal the money from a specific car driven by Pelham because the car's driver's-side door did not lock properly, the U.S. Attorney's Office reported.

On July 5, 2008, Pelham parked the armored car at the Westfield Wheaton shopping mall and left the care to replenish the ATM with cash. Lane entered the car and stole $588,000, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Charging documents filed in Montgomery County District Court say Pelham left the van unlocked with cash in the front cab portion of the van, rather than securing it in the rear compartment.

When Pelham returned to the car, he saw that Lane had stolen the money and telephoned 911 to report the theft, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. Prosecutors say Pelham portrayed himself as innocent of any wrongdoing and lied to police investigators about his knowledge of the money's whereabouts and circumstances of the theft.

U.S. District Judge Alexander Williams Jr. sentenced Lane to two years in prison and Mayo to 14 months in prison Feb. 27.

Damon, Keith Pritchett, 33, of Annapolis was sentenced to two years of probation with six months home detention. Pelham and Mayo asked Pritchett, a childhood friend, to hide the money for them. He buried the money in Temple Hills, the U.S. Attorney's Office reported.