AP NEWS

Jury convicts 4 men in Houston-area armored truck heists

March 29, 2019

Four men have been convicted in federal court in Houston of various charges arising from a “shoot-first-rob-later” scheme that resulted in the slaying of a security guard during an armored car heist as well as a thwarted robbery attempt on another occasion in which the crew’s suspected ringleader died in a shootout with police.

The jury on Friday afternoon convicted Marc Anthony Hill, 48, and Nelson Alexander Polk, 40, of “aiding and abetting” in the deadly heist and using a firearm in the commission of a violent crime. Hill and Polk, along with co-defendants John Edward Scott, 43, and Bennie Charles Phillips, Jr., 31, were also convicted of “aiding and abetting” in the failed robbery on Dec. 7, 2016 as well as use of a firearm.

The trial lasted two weeks and involved compelling audio and video footage collected by police that witnesses testified showed the suspects planning the December robbery.

The case evolved from a string of brazen robberies of armored trucks beginning in 2015. Two defendants were accused of helping facilitate an August 2016 heist in which a sniper killed 25-year-old David Guzman from afar as he was stocking an ATM at a Wells Fargo branch at U.S. 290 and Hollister. Surveillance video showed a getaway driver pulling in beside the ATM and and a third man hopping out of the car to grab money bags carrying what turned out to be $120,000 in cash.

In the weeks following Guzman’s death, police learned from an informant about the alleged mastermind, Redrick “Red” Batiste, and obtained court permission to wiretap his phone. The lead FBI agent on the case said the crew rented a car, rigged the key fob, added a tracking device and returned the car so they could steal it again when the next person rented it. Law enforcement visited the rental agency and added their own tracking device as well as audio and camera equipment, according to Jeffrey Coughlin, a special agent with the FBI.

When the crew moved in to steal the rental, police began their in-car surveillance, which allowed law enforcement to view the attempted December heist as it happened. Police showed up hidden inside an armored truck, and Batiste was fatally shot by law enforcement officers during the confrontation.

Batiste is also suspected in deadly robberies dating back to 2015, including the fatal March 2016 shooting of Loomis security courier Melvin Moore, who was gunned down while refilling an ATM at the J.P. Morgan Chase on Airline, according to a law enforcement official familiar with the investigation.

gabrielle.banks@chron.com