Gang mem­bers headed to prison

Mem­bers of so-called ‘Felony Lane Gang’ ad­mit roles in crimes

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - SUNDAY SELECT - By Michael P. Rel­la­han mrel­la­han@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @Ch­escoCourtNews on Twit­ter

One by one, mem­bers of the so­called “Felony Lane Gang” caught in Ch­ester County and Philadel­phia this spring are en­ter­ing guilty pleas for crimes as­so­ci­ated with the East Coast theft ring they were a part of.

On Fri­day, a man and woman from Baltimore who were cap­tured by Tredyf­frin po­lice out­side a fast food res­tau­rant with dozens of stolen credit cards and un­canceled checks ad­mit­ted their roles be­fore a Com­mon Pleas Court judge, and were sen­tenced to state prison.

Jeremy Evans, 40, and Heather Miler, 29, were sen­tenced to 16-to-96 months and 18-to-72 months in prison re­spec­tively on changes or ac­cess de­vi­ate fraud, iden­tity theft, and con­spir­acy stem­ming from the March 1 in­ci­dent that fea­tured a high-speed chase down the Schuylkill Ex­press­way.

Both have been in custody since March 1. Miller, ac­cord­ing to at­tor­neys in­volved with the case, will still face ad­di­tional prison time in Mary­land when she com­pletes her sen­tence here, which in­cludes one year pro­ba­tion.

They are the fourth and fifth de­fen­dants to plead guilty out of the seven who were take into custody that day. Oth­ers in­clude Jeremy Espenshade of Baltimore, who re­ceived a county prison sen­tence of 11 ½ to 23 months and five years pro­ba­tion, and Ash­ley Hamm, also of Baltimore, who is serv­ing a two year to four years sen­tence in state prison.

The fifth, Sherry Howard, the driver of the get­away car that raced down I-76 dur­ing mid-day traf­fic, is await­ing sen­tenc­ing.

But although he ac­cepted each guilty plea and ap­proved the ne­go­ti­ated sen­tences, Judge Wil­liam P. Ma­hon ex­pressed his dis­plea­sure at what he viewed were sen­tences that did not take into ac­count the over­all se­ri­ous­ness of the crimes com­mit­ted that day, and the lack of re­spon­si­bil­ity that the de­fen­dants were al­lowed to avoid. He noted that only one of the seven had so far agreed to co­op­er­ate with au­thor­i­ties in­ves­ti­gat­ing the over­all scheme of the gang.

“You are giv­ing away all the ac­com­plice charges,” Ma­hon told As­sis­tant District At­tor­ney An­drew Davis dur­ing the hear­ing on Miller’s case Fri­day. “I have peo­ple plead­ing to por­tions of the en­tire in­ci­dents who are not co­op­er­at­ing with the Com­mon­wealth, and are get­ting passes … for por­tions of the en­tire in­ci­dent for which they are crim­i­nally li­able. I don’t get it.”

By law, all seven of the par­tic­i­pants who were cap­tured that day are equally li­able for the ac­tions of the oth­ers since they were ac­com­plices or en­gaged in a con­spir­acy. But thus far only one de­fen­dant, Howard, has been asked to plead guilty to charges stem­ming from the chase — felony feel­ing and elud­ing po­lice.

Davis had ex­plained to Ma­hon as part of his recita­tion of the facts in Miller’s case that she was not among those in one of the two SUVs in­volved that day that led po­lice on the high­way chase, and that she had ac­cepted re­spon­si­bil­ity for the credit card and check­ing thefts she could be tied to.

Fur­ther, Miller’s at­tor­ney, Stu­art Crich­ton of West Ch­ester, had told Ma­hon that she had never fought the charges against her, was tak­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity for her crimes through the plea, and was ready to face up to the ad­di­tional prison time she will re­ceive back home in Mary­land. “She stands be­fore you dis­play­ing re­morse,” Crich­ton said.

Ma­hon had ear­lier cas­ti­gated Miller when she tried to as­sert that she wasn’t part of the chase, and had stayed stopped when sur­rounded by po­lice.

“Did I ask you to say any­thing?” Ma­hon thun­dered at Miller. “You are ab­so­lutely re­spon­si­ble for ev­ery ac­tion of ev­ery­one else in the chase. Don’t have the au­dac­ity to try to pro­mote your moral po­si­tion.”

Even­tu­ally, Ma­hon ac­cepted Miller’s plea, and that of Evans as well, but is­sued a warn­ing.

“I am not par­tic­u­larly thrilled with this,” he said. “If you are ever back be­fore me, I will ex­press my dis­plea­sure.”

Branded the “Felony Lane Gang” by law en­force­ment of­fi­cials for the way the crim­i­nals carry out crimes, po­lice con­firmed the crime spree has been go­ing on for sev­eral years.

Ac­cord­ing to Tredyf­frin po­lice, the gang mem­bers use per­sonal iden­ti­fi­ca­tion such as checks and IDs that were stolen from vic­tims, then they would at­tempt to ob­tain money from banks us­ing the iden­ti­fi­ca­tion. They would fre­quently steal from women’s purses lay­ing in plain view in cars parked at day­care cen­ters and re­tail shop­ping cen­ters.

Gang mem­bers will typ­i­cally use the stolen in­for­ma­tion to steal money from bank ac­counts, us­ing the drive-through lane of the bank which makes it eas­ier for them to flee if the po­lice ar­rive. That was what prompted law en­force­ment of­fi­cials to give them the name “Felony Lane Gang.”

On March 1, po­lice re­ceived re­ports from two off-duty fire­fight­ers eat­ing lunch at Wendy’s on Swedes­ford Road near the Val­ley Forge shop­ping cen­ter about sus­pi­cious ac­tiv­ity tak­ing place in a nearby park­ing lot. A woman, later iden­ti­fied as Hamm, was burying some­thing in a mulch plant­ing area, and the fire­fight­ers re­ported sev­eral peo­ple at­tempt­ing to change ve­hi­cle reg­is­tra­tion on two ve­hi­cles.

When po­lice ar­rived, three sus­pects — Miller, Espenshade and Evans — at­tempted to flee on foot but were ap­pre­hended. Four ad­di­tional sus­pects in the sec­ond ve­hi­cle — Howard, Hamm, Keenon Sey­mour and Jerome Glin­ton, both of Florida — fled, re­sult­ing in a high speed chase reach­ing 100 mph ac­cord­ing to some re­ports.

Sey­mour and Glin­ton are still await­ing trial in the case.

Heavy traf­fic forced the flee­ing ve­hi­cle to stop and crash into a state po­lice car. Some gang mem­bers at­tempted to flee af­ter the crash, and one ran across sev­eral lanes of traf­fic and jumped into the Schuylkill river. Ac­cord­ing to po­lice, all sus­pects were ap­pre­hended and no civil­ians or of­fi­cers were hurt.

By law, all seven of the par­tic­i­pants who were cap­tured that day are equally li­able for the ac­tions of the oth­ers since they were ac­com­plices or en­gaged in a con­spir­acy.

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