"Take Over Bandits" Trial Ends

A federal jury in Tyler convicted Derrick Van Hodges, 34, and his half-brother Paul Edward Thomas, 40, of 18 felony charges after about four hours of deliberations in U.S. District Judge Michael Schneider's court.  The verdict came Friday.

They were found guilty of conspiracy, five bank robbery charges, 11 charges of brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence and one count of discharging an assault rifle.  The defendants face up to five years for the conspiracy charge, 25 years each for the bank robbery charges, at least seven years each for showing handguns during a crime of violence and at least 10 years for discharging an assault rifle.  They will be sentenced by the judge.

Attorneys have said the men are suspected of robbing 15 banks, but were only tried for five.  The "Takeover Bandits" held up five banks and credit unions at gunpoint from Dec. 5, 2005, through Sept. 21, 2007, in Tyler, Henderson, Troup, Lufkin and Crockett.

On July 6, 2007 two robbers entered the Bank of America branch on Loop 287 and robbed the bank at gunpoint, making off with an estimated $50,000.  Last week the prosecution presented its case.  Linda Robinson, a teller at the Bank Of America in Lufkin, was among several employees from various banks allegedly robbed by the "Take Over Bandits" to testify.

Police reports in the bank robbery that occurred on July 6, 2007 indicate two men armed with guns entered the Bank of America branch on Loop 287 in Lufkin.  Witnesses say the robbers wore long sleeve shirts, long pants, hats, sunglasses and bandanas over their faces.  They reportedly stole $50,000 from that location.  They were seen fleeing the bank in a pickup truck.

Police investigators say the robbers were later spotted jumping out of the truck and into a church van with a United Pentecostal Church logo written on it.  Police say both vehicles had been stolen, the pickup truck from Knight Motor Company and the church van from the church parking lot.

The men are also accused of robbing Citizens National Bank in Crockett on September 22, 2007, Austin Bank in Troup on June 22, 2007, the Kelly Community Federal Credit Union in Tyler on December 5, 2005, and the Bank of America in Henderson on November 3, 2006