FLINT TWP. — Police Chief George Sippert gave the township board an update on a series of bank robberies he first reported on in March.
A jury recently convicted Thomas Gatica of Flint, one of four suspects, Chief Sippert said. Gatica was accused of robbing the Citizens Bank (now First Merit) at Court Street and Linden roads. That resulted in a high-speed chase that ended with a suspect being apprehended in the city of Flint.
Police investigators learned that Gatica had twice robbed that same bank at gunpoint and also twice-robbed the Beecher Road branch and an AutoZone in Burton, Chief Sippert said.
Chief Sippert credited the investigation bureau with doing an excellent, lengthy job in the case, which ended with a jury finding Gatica guilty on 16 felony counts after a two-week trial.
Sippert cited township Officer Brett Cassidy as the lead investigator. Physical evidence from the first robbery at the Beecher Road bank in October 2010 was tied to evidence from other robberies during the next two years. Military-style weapons were used, Chief Sippert told the board in a previous report.
The arrest of one suspect uncovered a criminal network of career bank robbers and led to subsequent arrests.
Gatica, 39, is facing up to life in prison at his sentencing Dec. 16.
Gatica was convicted of 16 felonies related to the two bank robberies and the auto supply store from 2010 to 2012, according to a press release from the office of Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton.
Gatica was convicted on one count of Conspiracy of Conducting a Criminal enterprise (Racketeering), one count of Armed Robbery, four counts of Bank Robbery, five counts of Felony Firearm, and five counts of Felon in Possession of a Firearm.
Gatica has a history of numerous felony convictions and arrests dating back to1992, the release stated. He faces up to life in prison at his upcoming sentencing.
Prosecutor Leyton said three other men are awaiting trial and there is an outstanding warrant for the arrest of a fifth defendant connected to these robberies.