Alleged bank robber and accomplices make first court appearanceWORTHINGTON — Four people arrested in connection to Friday’s bank robbery in Rushmore made their first court appearances Tuesday in Nobles county District Court.
WORTHINGTON — Four people arrested in connection to Friday’s bank robbery in Rushmore made their first court appearances Tuesday in Nobles county District Court.
Two men and two women were escorted into the courtroom clad in bright orange jumpsuits, leg shackles and handcuffs.
Mercedes Salena Lovan, 19, and Phothong Syhavong, 27, are each charged with one count of aiding an offender to avoid arrest. Jose Osoria-Mendez, 18, is also charged with aiding an offender and faces additional charges of aiding and abetting first-degree aggravated robbery and aiding and abetting theft over $5,000.
Felix Mendez, 22, is charged with first-degree aggravated robbery, theft over $5,000 and two counts of receiving stolen property.
“It says (in the bail study) a high bail is recommended and that you are a flight risk,” Judge Jeffrey Flynn said to Mendez while reading the report. “And that you are on probation in California for attempted murder as a juvenile.”
“I was there at a shooting,” Mendez replied.
Nobles County Attorney Gordon Moore said Mendez is currently facing charges of receiving stolen property and theft of a motor vehicle and the California case in 2005 involved a gun. He said Mendez was living with Syhavong on Fox Farm Road at the time of his arrest Friday.
When asked if he had anything to say for himself, Mendez told Flynn he was not a flight risk.
“I’ve never run from court or from jail,” Mendez said. “I’ve never escaped or attempted to.”
Flynn set Mendez’s bail at $200,000 and appointed a public defender as his attorney.
Syhavong, Lovan and Osoria-Mendez were also appointed public defenders. The women’s bail amounts were set at $2,500 each, while Osoria-Mendez’s was set at $150,000. Osoria-Mendez has a juvenile record in Nobles County and has lived in the area for the past six or seven years, he said.
“Marijuana may be a contributing factor to his part in the crime,” Moore told Flynn.
The complaint, filed Tuesday, states Osoria-Mendez told authorities he was bribed with marijuana to participate in the robbery by his uncle, Mendez.
The 911 call regarding the robbery at First State Bank Southwest in Rushmore came in at 10:40 a.m., according to the complaint. The caller said the bank had just been robbed by a male wearing a cap and sunglasses carrying a black handgun with a long barrel. The caller reported the robber left Rushmore in a red Mitsubishi headed east toward Worthington.
Authorities responded to the call and were deployed on the east/west roads between Rushmore and Worthington. A detective was heading toward the scene when he noticed a red car traveling east at a high rate of speed on a gravel road, which caused a large dust cloud. The detective notified other law enforcement and an officer watched the red car travel east and turn into a driveway on Fox Farm Road. The officer knew from experience the residence was that of Syhavong and Mendez.
Cops surrounded the property while the officer spoke with the home owners next door. The couple said they had returned home and were unloading groceries from their car when they saw the red vehicle they recognized as their neighbor’s car approach very fast from the west and pull into the garage.
Within minutes of officers arriving at the property, two females and one male exited the house without prompting with their hands up. Osoria-Mendez told them “Felix” was inside the house taking a shower and had just arrived home in the red car. He said Mendez had told them the cops were outside and that they should exit the house.
The Worthington Police captain called Mendez with a phone number provided by Syhavong and asked him to come outside. Mendez said he had just awakened and asked what was going on, but agreed to the request. When the man did as asked, the captain noticed Mendez appeared freshly showered and shaved.
At the scene of the robbery, two bank employees described the robber as a black or Hispanic male, around 150 pounds, wearing a baseball cap, sunglasses, a dark sweatshirt and dark jeans. The tellers said the man approached the counter with a white plastic grocery sack and told them to give him the money.
They said they placed $6,422 in U.S. currency in the bag, including $1,000 in bait bills, then gave it to the man, who immediately left the building. In the currency was a stack of $2 bills with a sticky note attached to the pile and several checks.
Surveillance video shows the man was inside the bank for less than 30 seconds.
A customer in the bank corroborated the tellers’ story, and a man outside the bank provided a description of the vehicle. Inside the bank, authorities found a white plastic bag and an intact .22 caliber bullet.
After securing a search warrant, officers searched the residence on Fox Farm Road and located $5,522 in bills, the bait bills, the $2 bill stack and two checks. The money and checks were discovered in an upstairs bedroom floor vent. In another bedroom, authorities found a .45 pistol, a .22 handgun and a 12-gauge shotgun.
After running the serial numbers on the pistol and long gun, law enforcement learned both guns were reported stolen in Crawford County, Iowa, on May 28. Based on information from the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, both Mendez and Osoria-Mendez were identified as suspects in that burglary.
During an interview, Osoria-Mendez allegedly said he had driven the red Mitsubishi to the bank with his uncle with the purpose of committing a bank robbery. He said he did not want to, but his uncle bribed him with marijuana. He allegedly said his uncle had a loaded gun in his waistband and “stuff on his face” and was wearing a fake mustache when they left to go to Rushmore.
When Mendez was interviewed, he allegedly stated, “So you found the cash and guns, huh?” and asked if the teller at the bank had described his black eye. When told where the cash was found, he allegedly said, “I’m surprised you found it there. Most cops would not have looked there.”
Syhavong told authorities she knew the two men were “going to do something stupid” when they left because they were all dressed in black. She said Mendez called a short time after leaving and told her to open the garage door. After the car pulled in, Lovan closed the door.
Lovan said she knew the men had robbed a bank and had heard Mendez talking about robbing a bank before. She said she saw the cash in the bag when the men returned.
All four have a court appearance July 20 at the Prairie Justice Center.