Bank Robber Faces Sentencing in San Fernando Valley Heists

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A woman is expected to be sentenced today to federal prison for taking part in violent takeover-style bank stick-ups in the San Fernando Valley.

Demenia Hawkins, 40, pleaded guilty in February to a single federal count of aiding and abetting armed bank robbery, admitting her role in two heists.

Although the charge carries a possible maximum penalty of 25 years behind bars, prosecutors are recommending nearly six years in prison and restitution of $15,570, according to documents filed in Los Angeles federal court.

“A low-end sentence will allow defendant Hawkins to reflect upon her actions and potentially deter future offenses, particularly when it appears that (she) has not previously served a significant custodial sentence,'' prosecutors wrote.

One of four defendants in the case, Hawkins admitted working with crew leader Robert Michael St. John and Michelle Edwards in the heists of a Citibank branch in Granada Hills on June 15, 2017, and a Chase bank branch in North Hills the following month.

Prosecutors wrote that Hawkins reports suffering abuse both as a child and an adult, and was manipulated by St. John, “who has taken advantage of vulnerable women for decades.''

Hawkins' attorney is expected to argue for a three-year sentence.

In a letter to the court, Hawkins, who previously lived in North Carolina, wrote that she was not “mentally stable'' at the time of the crimes.

“My racing thoughts and voices told me it was OK to do this because I needed a lot of financial assistance,'' the mother of five wrote.

In the first robbery, Hawkins acknowledged waiting in the getaway car while St. John held up the bank. On July 7, 2017, St. John provided real-time instructions to Edwards through a headset and cell phone during the robbery while he waited in the getaway car. Hawkins admitted she collected about $2,000 from the tellers.

Edwards was sentenced in June 2019 to six years behind bars for her role in six stick-ups that left bank tellers reeling from what the sentencing judge called “significant'' emotional trauma.

Edwards was recruited to join the bank ring by St. John, a career criminal who was serving time in a previous case when he contacted her, then-U.S. District Judge S. James Otero said last year.

During the robberies, a disguised Edwards brandished a gun and, in at least one instance, told a teller she would “blow your head off'' if the bank employee didn't comply, the judge said.

The “significant short- and long-term effects'' of the crimes on the victims was “obvious'' when they testified during St. John's trial, Otero said. Testimony was halted in the case after a few days when St. John agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy to commit armed bank robbery, and he was sentenced by Otero in May 2019 to five years behind bars.

Fourth co-defendant Savion Cheatham pleaded guilty to a conspiracy count and was sentenced in August 2019 to 18 months in federal prison.

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