Frank Esparza, Sr., 40, of El Paso, Texas, appeared Tuesday before U.S. Magistrate Judge E. Scott Frost and admitted committing the September 27, 2012, armed robbery of First Bank Texas, in Abilene.
U.S. Attorney Sarah R. Saldaa of the Northern District of Texas, tells Big Country Homepage that Esparza 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 armed bank robbery count carries a maximum statutory penalty of 25 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine, and the firearm count requires imprisonment for a period of not less than seven years and up to life, and a $250,000 fine. Esparza remains in federal custody; a sentencing date was not set.
According to plea papers filed in the case, at approximately 4:30 p.m. on 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.
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.