Leader of would-be bank robbers sentenced

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) The mastermind of a team built to hold up a Marion credit union in July 2015 was sentenced in federal court on Wednesday.

Freddie L. Church, 39, of Fort Wayne was sentenced in U.S. District Court to just more than 14 years in prison and two years of supervised released afterward for his role in a plot to rob the Via Credit Union, just off I-69 in Marion, in July 2015. FBI agents tailed five suspects from Fort Wayne to Marion and had credit union employees lock their building before the would-be robbers could get inside.

Freddie Church

On July 2, 2015, members of the FBI Fort Wayne Safe Streets Task Force watched five suspects drive from the Southbridge Apartments on the southeast side of Fort Wayne to the credit union in Marion, where they cased the building before they drove back to Fort Wayne.

The next day, officers tailed the five suspects again. This time, authorities tipped off employees at the credit union, telling them to leave the “open” sign on the front door, keep their cars parked in their normal spots, and lock the doors.

Just before 10 a.m. that Friday morning, four men drove up to the credit union while the fifth suspect waited in a different vehicle at a nearby gas station, according to court documents. Agents said the four men got out of the vehicle and tried to enter the credit union, but it was locked. No one was in the building either.

A federal criminal complaint at the time said that the suspects then got back in their vehicle and began to drive off when officers immediately pulled them over. One officer reported seeing one of the suspects remove his mask. Authorities said they found zip ties, masks, and a loaded semi-automatic gun in the vehicle.

Officers also pulled over and arrested the fifth suspect who was waiting at a nearby gas station in a different vehicle. Autumn Carter, 21, admitted to police that the four men were going to rob the credit union and she was supposed to follow their vehicle, according to court documents. Agents said it’s common for bank robbers to use a secondary or “switch vehicle” during the escape because officers usually have a description of the getaway vehicle.

The four men arrested in the heist were Church; Christian Smith, 18; Tyler McCarthy, 19; and Shaiki Sutton, 21.

In a news released Wednesday, federal authorities said Church was the leader of the robbery crew.