NEWARK– A federal grand jury returned an indictment on Friday charging an Elizabeth man with a series of gunpoint bank robberies throughout New Jersey, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
Claude Williams, 61, was charged with six bank robberies and two counts of using a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence when he was arrested in July 2012. Last week’s indictment added multiple counts, and Williams now faces one count of conspiracy to commit bank robbery, seven counts of bank robbery, one count of attempted bank robbery and eight firearms counts in connection with the alleged robbery spree.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court: Between Sept. 26, 2011, and July 30, 2012, Williams allegedly committed seven armed bank robberies and attempted to rob an eighth bank.
Williams allegedly used a similar procedure for each robbery: after entering the bank armed with a handgun and wearing a bandana, hooded sweat shirt or jacket and white gloves, he would vault over the counter and demand money from bank tellers at gunpoint.
Williams is accused of robbing or attempting to rob the following banks:
- Financial Resources Federal Credit Union in Somerset on Sept. 26, 2011
- Somerset Savings Bank in Somerville on Nov. 21, 2011
- Provident Bank in Piscataway on Feb. 27, 2012
- Provident Bank in Clifton on April 27,2012
- Provident Bank in Piscataway on May 22, 2012
- Fulton Bank in Metuchen on June 30, 2012
- Unity Bank in Middlesex on July 12, 2012
- Unity Bank in North Plainfield on July 30, 2012
In several of the bank robberies, Williams allegedly sent a conspirator into the bank to case it shortly before he entered to commit the robbery.
Prior to the July 12, 2012, robbery, an unarmed, off-duty police officer was parked across from the Unity Bank. The officer observed Williams allegedly leave the bank, get into the rear of the getaway car, and crouch down to hide. After noting the license plate number, the officer followed the car.
After an unsuccessful attempt to elude the officer, the getaway car stopped. Williams allegedly got out of the car and pointed his gun at the officer, forcing the officer to leave the scene without apprehending Williams and his accomplice.
Later, on Friday, July 27, 2012, and Saturday, July 28, 2012, law enforcement observed Williams driving in the vicinity of a Unity Bank in Somerset. On July 30, 2012, law enforcement again observed Williams and accomplice Andrea Dorsey – who has since pleaded guilty to her involvement in some of the robberies – in the vicinity of the bank. Law enforcement stopped the car blocks from the bank and arrested Williams and Dorsey, finding a handgun and white gloves inside the car.
Each of the bank robbery charges carries a maximum potential penalty of 25 years in prison. The attempted bank robbery charge carries a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison. The first of the eight counts of using a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence carries a mandatory minimum penalty of seven years and a maximum of life in prison; each additional count carries a mandatory minimum penalty of 25 years and a maximum of life in prison. Each charge also carries a maximum $250,000 fine.
Fishman praised special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Aaron T. Ford, with the investigation. He also thanked the Somerset County Prosecutors Office and the Middlesex Borough, Piscataway, Clifton, Metuchen, North Plainfield and Plainfield Police Departments for their excellent work.
The charges and allegations contained in the indictment are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
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