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Man convicted of bank robberies in York, Lebanon and Berks counties

Derek Pelker (March 2016)

HARRISBURG — The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced today that Derek Pelker, age 28, of Wernersville, Pennsylvania, was convicted on May 18, 2018, by a jury on four counts of armed bank robbery, four counts of conspiracy to commit armed bank robbery, two counts of brandishing a firearm in relation to a crime of violence; and, two counts of possession of a firearm by a felon. Pelker represented himself during the five-day trial held before United States District Court Judge Yvette Kane.

According to U.S. Attorney David J. Freed, the jury returned a verdict of guilty after approximately two-days of deliberations and convicted Pelker of robbing the Susquehanna Bank in East Prospect, Pennsylvania on April 24, 2015; the BB&T Bank in Valley View, Pennsylvania on November 17, 2015; the Gratz Bank in Valley View, Pennsylvania on January 14, 2016; and, the M&T Bank in Lebanon, Pennsylvania on April 5, 2016.

Pelker’s co-defendants pled guilty in relation to these robberies and are awaiting sentencing:

• Andrew Ishman, age 31, Wrightsville, pled guilty to the East Prospect bank robbery on October 3, 2016;
• Ryan Miller, a/k/a “Otis,” age 25, Robinson Township, pled guilty to the East Prospect robbery and a separate bank robbery on December 6, 2016;
• Keith Pelker, age 28, Wernersville, pled guilty to the Lebanon bank robbery on October 3, 2016;
• Shannon Gadzouris, age 24, Shillington, pled guilty to the Lebanon bank robbery on October 3, 2016;
• Ryan Martin, age 27, of Reading pled guilty to the two Valley View bank robberies on December 1, 2017; and
• Kelsie Bair, age 28, and Lindsey School, age 27, both of Lebanon, pled guilty to accessory after the fact after they disposed of the weapon used in the Lebanon bank robbery off a pier in Ocean City, New Jersey. The weapon was ultimately recovered by the FBI scuba diving team.

One co-defendant was sentenced:

• William Papoutsis, Pelker’s uncle, age 35, of Reading, pled guilty to obstruction of justice in relation to these robberies and was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment;

The investigation was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation Capital City Violent Crimes Task Force, the Pennsylvania State Police, the South Lebanon Township Police Department, the U.S. Marshals Fugitive Task Force, and the Lebanon and York County District Attorney’s Offices. The Capital City Violent Crimes Task Force consists of representatives from the FBI’s Harrisburg Field Office and the Harrisburg Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Scott R. Ford and Chelsea Schinnour prosecuted the case.

This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. Attorney General Jeff Sessions reinvigorated PSN in 2017 as part of the Department’s renewed focus on targeting violent criminals, directing all U.S. Attorney’s Offices to work in partnership with federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement and the local community to develop effective, locally-based strategies to reduce violent crime.

Source: US Middle District of PA