HARPERSVILLE, Ala. — Stephen Lancaster Dennis wanted change, federal prosecutors say.
The Harpersville, Alabama, man has agreed to plead guilty to a count of bank theft after using his position with the Brink’s armored transport service to abscond with $196,000 — all in quarters.
This is according to Joyce White Vance, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, and Roger Stanton, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Birmingham Division.
“What Mr. Dennis may have thought was a nickel and dime theft was, in the end, the equivalent of a major bank heist,” Stanton said in a news release. “Now, he will be a convicted felon who must repay all the stolen money.”
Get it? Nickel and dime? Stanton wasn’t the only one in the mood for puns.
Vance coined one herself: “This defendant may have thought he had quite a haul when he took nearly $200,000 in quarters from the Federal Reserve’s coin storage at Brink’s, but now he carries a heavier load. He must repay the money and face a federal sentence.”
The feds provided no motive in their news release, so it’s unclear if Dennis was possessed by some dark predilection for Pac-Man or vending machines.
The two-bit crook — or more accurately, the 1.568 million-bit crook — was a money processing manager for the Brink’s Birmingham branch when he stole the money belonging to the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, authorities said. As part of his plea agreement, the Justice Department said, he must repay Brink’s, which has already reimbursed the Federal Reserve.
So, how does one make off with 9,800 pounds in quarters? That’s almost 5 tons, roughly the weight of a pair of Toyota Priuses or mid-sized giraffes.
Well, the Justice Department news release isn’t abundantly clear on how Dennis got the coins out of the Brink’s facility. But according to charging documents and Dennis’ plea agreement, the 49-year-old had access to the Federal Reserve coin inventory, which included so-called ballistic bags containing quarters in $50,000 increments. The bags were stored on skids in the doubtless aptly named Coin Room.
An April 2014 audit of the coin inventory showed that four of the bags had been filled mostly with beads. Those bags each contained only $1,000 in quarters, which had been strategically situated so the coins were visible through a plastic window in the necks of the bags, according to federal authorities.
Upon investigation, authorities determined that Dennis had entered the Brink’s facility on February 16, 2014 — a day off for the Harpersville man — and collected four empty skids and four empty ballistics bags, which he filled with beads, the Justice Department said. He then placed the skids and bags in the coin room, authorities said.
The theft took place between January 1, 2014, and February 20, 2014, the news release said.
Dennis faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. That’s a million-quarter fine, or 216,000 more quarters than Dennis stole.