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April 4, 11

NEWS / Former Bank Employee Pleads Guilty to Staged Kidnapping, Bank Robbery

KANSAS CITY, KSóA former bank employee has pleaded guilty to staging a kidnapping and bank robbery to cover up stealing money from the bankís ATM, U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom said today.

Michael Grace, 20, Overland Park, Kan., pleaded guilty today to one count of embezzlement by a bank employee. In his plea, he admitted he took part in a scheme to embezzle money from the U.S. Bank at 10100 West 119th Street in Overland Park, Kan.

Agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation were called to the bank Nov. 10, 2010, in response to a report of a kidnapping and bank robbery. Grace told investigators he had been kidnapped and forced to go to the bank to get money for the robber. Grace was discovered about 7:20 a.m. in the bank. He was bound with duct tape, seated in a chair, and bleeding from the nose.

Investigators reviewed surveillance footage showing Grace being led around the empty bank by a man wearing a mask. No weapon was visible in the masked manís hands.

During the course of the investigation, FBI agents learned that Graceís story of being kidnapped was not true. In fact, Grace and other conspirators had embezzled funds from the bank. Co-defendant Brendan L. Conners pleaded guilty and admitted he was the person in surveillance footage wearing the mask. He and Grace used Graceís key to the bankís ATM machine to steal the money. He hit Grace in the face to make Grace look as if he had been beaten.

Grace is set for sentencing June 27. He faces a maximum penalty of 30 years in federal prison and a fine up to $250,000.

Co-defendants in the case are:

* Brendan L. Connors, 18, Overland Park, Kan., is set for sentencing July 13 after pleading guilty today to one count of aiding and abetting embezzlement by a bank employee.
* David Batson, 20, Overland Park, Kan., is set for sentencing June 20 after pleading guilty to one count of aiding and abetting embezzlement by a bank employee.
* Jacob McWhirt, 28, Overland Park, Kan., is set for sentencing June 13 after pleading guilty to one count of aiding and abetting embezzlement by a bank employee.

Grissom commended the FBI, the Overland Park Police Department, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott Rask for their work on the case.




AnnaMaria Realbuto
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