‘Hitchcockian suspense’: Man sentenced for role in Centre County robbery, threats

Police searching for SPE Federal Credit Union robber

Ferguson Chief Chris Albright talks about the investigation for a robbery at the SPE Federal Credit Union on Science Park Road in State College on Tuesday afternoon
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Ferguson Chief Chris Albright talks about the investigation for a robbery at the SPE Federal Credit Union on Science Park Road in State College on Tuesday afternoon

A former University of Louisville football player was sentenced to nine years in prison for assisting with the August 2017 armed robbery of SPE Federal Credit Union in Ferguson Township, the U.S. Middle District of Pennsylvania said Monday.

Rodrequis Council, 33, and Marquis Buckley, 41, bought household materials at Walmart along North Atherton Street to manufacture two objects designed to look like explosive devices, according to a memo filed by U.S. District Court Judge Matthew Brann.

Council — whose sentence was announced Monday — placed one of the devices on Penn State’s University Park campus, while Buckley placed the second on the Walmart roof, Brann wrote.

The two did so after purchasing a phone card from the store, then calling in fake bomb threats to distract local police from the actual robbery on Aug. 22, 2017, according to Brann.

Penn State police responded to the bomb threat on campus and Patton Township police responded to the bomb threat at Walmart. The FBI bomb squad determined neither object was an explosive device, the judge wrote.

Buckley later went into the credit union, gave the teller a bag and note and placed what appeared to be a bomb on the counter, Brann wrote.

“If a dye pack goes off, the bomb will. If anyone walks out behind, then I will detonate the bomb,” Buckley is reported to have said.

The teller put nearly $7,180 in the bag, and Buckley left the credit union, located on Science Park Road. A robot was used to pick apart the fake explosive device he left on the counter, Brann wrote.

Council and Buckley reunited in Altoona, where Buckley gave Council about 50% of the stolen money, according to authorities. Council was charged July 5 with armed bank robbery and pleaded guilty the same day, Brann wrote.

Council and Buckley met each other while incarcerated at a federal prison facility in Florida, where they “concocted (the) elaborate scheme,” Brann wrote.

Ferguson Township police are investigating a Tuesday robbery at the SPE Credit Union. Penn State police are assisting in the investigation. The alleged robber fled the scene on foot after receiving an undisclosed amount of cash and threatening to

Prior to sentencing, Council’s attorney, Jerry Russo, argued for no more than four years and one month because he said Council was a “minor participant.”

Council graduated from Louisville with a communication degree in December 2016 before he relocated to Pennsylvania. He was accepted at the Pennsylvania College of Technology and was scheduled to begin studies in fall 2018, Russo wrote in a memo to Brann.

Council also worked full-time at the Hyatt Place in State College and applied for — but did not get — a graduate coaching position at Lock Haven University, Russo wrote.

“In Council’s case, he did not enter the bank in question, nor is there any evidence he was even present at the location when the robbery took place,” Russo wrote. “While he acknowledges his participation in the scheme to divert law enforcement so that Buckley would be successful in the bank robbery, Council is an accomplice to the robbery and not the principal.”

Brann disagreed, saying Council’s actions endangered the public, law enforcement and shut down businesses.

“Placing fake bombs in public areas causing Hitchcockian suspense appears to be as serious as the robbery itself,” Brann wrote.

The judge considered what he called Council’s “extensive criminal history,” mental illness and alcohol, marijuana and Ecstasy use. Council’s education and accomplishments — he was a “star athlete” in high school and college — suggest he should have known better, Brann wrote.

Buckley was sentenced earlier to 15 years and four months in prison for his role, the U.S. Middle District of Pennsylvania said. Both were ordered to repay the credit union.

Council appealed his sentence Monday. He is detained at the Clinton County Correctional Facility.

Bret Pallotto primarily reports on courts and crime for the Centre Daily Times. He grew up in Lewistown and graduated from Lock Haven University.