Gang members headed to prison
Members of so-called ‘Felony Lane Gang’ admit roles in crimes
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.