TAMPA – Federal authorities have scheduled a Nov. 29 preliminary hearing in Tampa for a South Carolina man wanted for allegedly robbing two Clay County banks and seven other banks in two states with a stolen vehicle.
In his initial court appearance on Nov. 16 that lasted 10 minutes, U.S. District Judge Christopher P. Tuite ordered Myron William Ernst, 60, of North Charleston, S.C. be detained on a recommendation from Assistant U.S. Attorney Callan Albritton, according to court documents filed in the Tampa Division of the Middle District of Florida. Prosecutors argued that Ernst is a “risk of flight” and a “danger to the community.”
Lakeland Police pulled Ernst over for a routine traffic violation there on Nov. 15 and when they verified his identification with his driver’s license, he was taken into custody.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation worked with multiple law enforcement agencies to capture Ernst who had been on the run since walking off his job Sept. 21 at Origin Point Brands in North Charleston, S.C.
The Clay County Sheriff’s Office said Ernst was the primary suspect in a robbery at the SunTrust Bank branch at 296 Blanding Blvd. Nov. 14 near Orange Park and the Oct. 9 robbery of the Bank of America branch at 29 Blanding Blvd. in which he drove away in a Lexus that was believed to have a Florida Gators license plate. He also robbed the same Bank of America on June 30, 2008 when he got away with $2,000.
Ernst’s arrest comes on the heels of the FBI offering a $5,000 reward and placing three different bank surveillance photos on a Most Wanted poster. He is wanted for robberies in Florida and Alabama.
According to the FBI poster created Nov. 9, Ernst “is known to have violent tendencies and is an escape risk.” U.S. District Court officials filed a complaint on Oct. 31 that a federal judge would use to issue a warrant for Ernst’s arrest.
According to the complaint, Ernst walked into the TD Bank at 6108 U.S. Highway 98 North in Lakeland and presented the teller with a note written in all capital letters that read: “I have a gun I will blow your brains out & everyone else in the bank $2,500 in 100’s no dye packs no alarms no tracking devices you have 30 seconds.”
“The teller complied and handed the suspect approximately $2,265 in cash. Upon receiving the money, the suspect exited the bank and fled in a newer model dark gray Ford F-150 truck, occupied by a white female,” states the warrant.
FBI officials worked with both the Polk County and Clay County Sheriff’s offices to obtain bank surveillance images of Ernst because three days prior, on Oct. 9, Ernst robbed the Bank of America branch near Orange Park Mall at 29 Blanding Blvd.
After the Oct. 12 Lakeland robbery, detectives set up a photo lineup with the TD Bank teller but were unsuccessful in identifying him. Then, they moved on to search the Florida driver’s license database where they found his date of birth and previous address in Orlando. Investigators also made contact with Ernst’s federal probation officer LaSheika VanDyke who then assisted in positively identifying Ernst.
In federal court documents filed in South Carolina, VanDyke said Ernst walked off his job on Sept. 21 “and has been terminated.” Five days later, she went to Ernst’s residence at an Inn Towne Suites short-stay motel in North Charleston after being alerted at 10:17 a.m. that morning that Ernst had tampered with his probation tracking device.
“All attempts to contact the offender went unanswered,” states the federal warrant signed by VanDyke. “A home visit was subsequently conducted on this same date. Front desk staff at Inn Town Suites provided the probation officer with the offender’s severed transmitter, which they located in the elevator.”
Also, in the Oct. 31 complaint, federal investigators contacted Ernst’s correctional counselor from Federal Correctional Institute Coleman in Sumter County, Florida to ask for help identifying Ernst. Counselor Michael Lindsay confirmed he was Ernst’s counselor for “approximately four years” while Ernst was in federal prison.
Ernst began probation on Aug. 10 after getting out of federal prison where he served part of an 11 year, 5-month sentence that was handed down Sept. 21, 2010, in U.S. District Court in South Carolina by Judge P. Michael Duffy. The sentence was to be followed by three years of supervised probation. Duffy also ordered Ernst to pay $11,000 in restitution at the time of sentencing. Ernst pleaded guilty to robbing the Regions Bank in Charleston, S.C. along with the Bank of America near Orange Park, and banks in Panama City, and Alabama banks in Hunstville, Mobile and Montgomery.