A Billings man accused in the armed robbery of the Valley Federal Credit Union last fall admitted federal charges on Thursday.
During a hearing in U.S. District Court, David Lee Brown, Jr., 40, pleaded guilty to an indictment charging him with bank robbery and brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence.
There was no plea agreement.
“I had a gun and I went into the Valley Federal Credit Union,” Brown told the judge. Brown said he pointed the gun at a teller, demanded money and left with $2,752.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Colin Rubich said the robbery happened at about 2 p.m. on Sept. 7, 2016, at the credit union, located at 1445 Main St.
Brown and his wife went to the credit union to open a checking account, Rubich said. Brown waited in the car while his wife went inside and began filling out an account application, but she left before completing the form.
The couple went to pick up their daughter from school and then, at Brown’s direction, returned to the credit union. Rubich said Brown told his wife to park in a nearby lot and leave if she saw anything happen.
Brown then pulled a camouflaged balaclava over his face, pulled a semi-automatic firearm and entered the credit union. He approached a teller, pointed the gun at her and ordered her to fill an empty Doritos chip bag with money, Rubich said.
The teller complied and included in the cash some bait bills, which have serial numbers that are tracked by the credit union. Brown then fled, and a witness saw him and a woman drive away in a gray Ford Taurus.
An investigation by Billings police officers found the Brown’s address on the incomplete account application and a records check determined that the couple owned a gray Ford Taurus, Rubich said.
Officers went to the couple’s address where Brown denied having been at the credit union, Rubich said. During the conversation, Brown’s wife returned home in the Ford Taurus. After getting consent to search the car, officers found a $20 bill that was one of the bait bills, he said.
Officers also searched the residence, found a camouflaged balaclava and arrested Brown.
After being advised of his rights, Brown admitted to the robbery and said he had borrowed the firearm from a friend. He returned the gun immediately after the robbery, Rubich said.
Brown also told officers he tossed the money off the porch behind his house, but officers never recovered the money despite searching the area.
Brown told the judge that at the time of the robbery, he was on state probation for three felony convictions, including two burglaries and a theft.
Brown faces a maximum 25 years and a $250,000 fine on the bank robbery crime and a mandatory consecutive seven years to life on the firearms count.
U.S. District Judge Susan Watters set sentencing for Aug. 24. Brown remains in custody.