Multiple jurisdictions add charges for the man accused in city heists
By J.R. Williams - firstname.lastname@example.org
Loudoun County and Fairfax authorities have joined the Winchester Police Department in pressing charges against accused bank robber Benjamin Luzan Sebastian.
Sebastian, 32, of Inwood, W.Va., was arrested Dec. 11 in connection with robberies at city banks Nov. 29 and Nov. 4. City police have said he confessed to those heists.
He now is charged with robbing four other banks -- two in Sterling, one in Reston and one in Great Falls -- between Oct. 6 and Nov. 20, officials said Thursday.
Sebastian is incarcerated at the Eastern Regional Jail in Martinsburg. Winchester police Sgt. Frank Myrtle said Sebastian could be extradited to Virginia before he is served warrants from the other jurisdictions.
Authorities said they could not rule out the possibility of federal prosecution. Area law-enforcement agencies have investigated the robberies jointly with the FBI.
"In the end, that's decided between the commonwealth's attorneys offices and the U.S. Attorney's Office," said Bud Walker, a spokesman for Fairfax police. "At this point the police story is almost over, and this becomes a court story."
An arrest warrant filed in Jefferson County, W.Va., Magistrate Court states that more than $38,000 was stolen from the Berryville Avenue United Bank branch and the downtown Bank of Clarke County branch during those robberies. Police said that amount is unusually high.
The warrant also describes a remarkable sequence of events that led to Sebastian's arrest.
On Nov. 29, the day the United Bank was robbed, Winchester police released a description of a truck they believed was used in the heist: A Chevrolet extended cab model. Surveillance video captured the truck driving around the bank at the moment the robber walked inside.
According to the warrant, a witness reported seeing a gold Chevrolet Silverado that day at the Interstate 81-Va. 7 interchange. It had distinctive features, including several bumper stickers. One read, "THIS IS MY DAMN TRUCK, EVERYTHING ELSE IS HERS."
After the robbery, the motorist called law enforcement and reported the unusual sticker. Police distributed the tip to area law enforcement, and on Dec. 8, an off-duty Loudoun County deputy spotted the truck in Ranson, W.Va., and recorded the license plate number. The truck is registered to Sebastian and his wife.
Through their investigaton, authorities discovered Sebastian lived with a girlfriend in Ranson and tagged the truck with an electronic monitoring device. They also obtained Sebastian's cell phone number, and records showed he was in Winchester at the time of both robberies.
The home of Sebastian's girlfriend was searched Dec. 10. Various clothing items, including clothes, receipts, a cell phone and other electronics were seized.
Meanwhile, Sebastian has a trial date scheduled for Feb. 23 in Loudoun County on unrelated criminal charges. According to a criminal complaint, he is charged with stealing a petty cash box with $600 inside from an office at United Litho, a Loudoun County business, in May.
Sebastian pleaded guilty in 2009 in Jefferson County, W.Va., to receiving and transferring stolen goods. According to court papers accompanying the charge, authorities accused him of stealing plumbing parts from a Lowe's hardware store by putting them in his boot.
He would then enlist someone to return the parts to Lowe's in exchange for a store gift card, pawn the gift card and split the money, the papers state. He was sentenced to one year of unsupervised probation.
Fairfax authorities charged Sebastian with two counts each of robbery and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony in the Oct. 21 and Oct. 26 robberies of the Presidential Bank in Reston and the Capital One bank in Great Falls.
In Loudoun County, he is charged with two counts each of entering a bank with intent to commit robbery, robbery and using a firearm in the commission of a felony in the Oct. 6 and Nov. 20 robberies of the Bank of America and the Wachovia Bank, both in Sterling.