EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. (AP) — Separated by hundreds of miles between his Detroit-area home and that of his Illinois girlfriend, Ramsey Fakhouri figured he would make the long-distance romance work by getting his sweetheart an engagement ring.
His choice in how to finance the bling wasn’t such a good idea.
On Friday, 22-year-old Fakhouri was sentenced in Illinois’ East St. Louis to six and a half years in federal prison for his role in the gunpoint holdup last Valentine’s Day of a female worker restocking an automated teller machine outside the bank where his girlfriend was working.
Federal prosecutors say Fakhouri, of the Detroit suburb of Troy, shared with 18-year-old accomplice Alexander Gerth the $26,000 stolen during the heist. Fakhouri’s girlfriend watched the robbery unfold in horror, never knowing her beau — the one who hours later comforted her about what she saw — had such a hand in it.
So went the romance that authorities say in court documents began a couple of years ago when Fakhouri met the girlfriend at a Bible college. By early this year, Fakhouri was ready to ask her to be his wife but lacked a way to pay for an engagement ring.
Stealing the money became an option.
Before last Feb. 14, while talking with his girlfriend by telephone, Fakhouri put her on speaker phone so Gerth could hear her unwittingly give details how the ATM is restocked outside her Bradford National Bank branch in Highland, Illinois, east of St. Louis.
Equipped with pellet guns resembling real semi-automatic pistols, authorities say, the Michigan friends drove Fakhouri’s 2008 Ford Mustang through the night to southern Illinois — getting a $120 speeding ticket along the way — and waited outside the bank for it to open, at one point watching the girlfriend pull onto the bank’s lot to start her shift. She called to wish Fakhouri a good morning, unaware he was there.
About 8:30 a.m. that day, prosecutors say that Gerth — masked and wielding the pellet gun — robbed the branch manager after she came out to refill the drive-up ATM. With Fakhouri driving the getaway car, the two suspects fled and were returning to Michigan when Fakhouri’s girlfriend texted him, voicing fears about the robbery she’d just seen. Fakhouri later told investigators Gerth dropped him off in Indianapolis, and he took a Greyhound bus back to comfort his girlfriend.
Later, after the girlfriend received texted surveillance photos of the alleged bank robbers visiting a Walmart near the robbed bank, Fakhouri admitted to her that one of the images was of him and surrendered.
Gerth, arrested in Michigan three days after the holdup, pleaded guilty in April and awaits sentencing next month.