El Paso man pleads guilty to Abilene bank robbery

POSTED: 2:30 PM Jan 30 2013   UPDATED: 1:54 PM Jan 08 2013
Frank Esparza, Sr.
ABILENE, Texas -

A 40-year-old El Paso man admitted in federal court Tuesday that he committed the Sept. 27, 2012, armed robbery of First Bank Texas on South First Street.

Frank Esparza, Sr. admitted committing the crime while appearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge E. Scott Frost, according to U.S. Attorney Sarah R. Saldaña of the Northern District of Texas in a news release.

According to law enforcement, Frank Esparza Sr. robbed the bank, while his son -- Frank Esparza Jr. -- and a 16-year-old provided assistance.

“Specifically, Esparza (Sr.) pleaded guilty to one count of armed bank robbery and one count of using and carrying a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence,” the news release said.

According to Saldana, the armed bank robbery count carries a maximum statutory penalty of 25 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine. In addition, she said, the firearm count requires imprisonment for a period of not less than seven years and up to life, and a $250,000 fine.

While Esparza remains in federal custody, a sentencing date wasn’t set.

Here’s the remainder of the U.S. Attorney Office news release:

According to plea papers filed in the case, at approximately 4:30 p.m. September 27, 2012, a Hispanic male wearing a dark hooded jacket, sunglasses and a ski mask, who was later identified as Esparza, entered FBT and approached the teller counter.  Esparza pointed a .25 caliber pistol at the tellers and said: “you know what this is.”  Esparza then walked behind the teller counter, held up a plastic grocery bag, and demanded money from the tellers.  The tellers gave Esparza the money and he said: “thank you ladies, I did not want anyone to get hurt.” As he began to exit the bank, an FDIC auditor was also leaving the bank and Esparza pointed the pistol at the auditor and told him not to say anything.  Esparza then fled the scene.

The plea papers also state that Esparza was driving an 18-wheeled tractor-trailer to Lubbock when it broke down in Abilene and that his son and a friend picked him up.  Esparza said he decided to rob a bank because he needed a quick way to obtain money.  His son and the friend took him to a bank, but it was closed when Esparza tried to go inside and rob it.  They then took him to FBT, where, after his son went inside the bank to get an idea of what was inside, Esparza entered the bank and robbed it, using a .25 caliber pistol he had acquired earlier in the day.

The investigation is being conducted by the FBI and the Abilene Police Department.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey R. Haag, of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Lubbock, Texas, is in charge of the prosecution.