Robbery of three banks described in plea agreement

By Dan Colton
for The Beacon

The two Glenbeulah bank robbers have signed federal plea agreements, saying they are guilty of helping rob three banks in Wisconsin.

According to the agreement, William Balgie, 35, and Justin Smith, 36, of Waupun, admitted to taking part in the robberies in Allenton, Menomonee Falls and Glenbeulah between April and August of last year. Balgie and Smith were arrested in Washington County the day of the Glenbeulah robbery after police matched a description of the getaway vehicle.

The two first robbed the National Exchange Bank & Trust in Allenton on April 8, authorities said.

Balgie was driving the getaway vehicle while Smith allegedly entered the bank at approximately 11:07 a.m. and set a bag onto the counter. The bag contained written instructions to place $100 and $50 bills inside.

“The subject then raised a silver and black handgun above the countertop toward the teller,” court records indicate. “The teller retrieved money from her drawer.”

Smith then left with $2,950, according to police.

A witness who lived less than a block from the bank told investigators she saw a maroon SUV parked outside her home. The vehicle drew suspicion from the resident, according to police, who believed her neighborhood was being “cased” for burglaries. A second witness said the SUV was spotted about one mile away near a farm field.

Shortly after, police records show the SUV’s plates were run by a Washington County Sheriff’s deputy on Highway 41, about 17-minutes’ drive from the bank.

The second robbery took place June 17 at the Cornerstone Community Bank in Menomonee Falls.

Police said Balgie once again drove and Smith entered the bank to demand $50 and $100 bills. A handgun was displayed, and Smith fled with $950.

“A witness outside the bank reported that she saw the suspect running from the area of the bank to an awaiting red or maroon Dodge Durango-type SUV that was already running with someone in the driver’s seat,” federal court records say. “The SUV then left the area.”

The SUV’s movements were captured by several cameras in the area, and police used a prior mugshot of Smith and compared it to the footage captured by surveillance cameras.

Police determined the robber was Smith and checked in on his last known residence in Waupun. While investigating the address, police observed a maroon SUV that appeared consistent with the vehicle captured on camera and described by eyewitnesses.

The vehicle, driven by Balgie, was then stopped by police in the City of Waupun and Fond du Lac County on three separate occasions between July 6 and Aug. 8. Smith was reportedly inside the SUV with Balgie at least two of the times; court records do not indicate why police didn’t detain the men for further questioning.

A day after Balgie and Smith were pulled over in the maroon SUV in Waupun, they again met up to purchase drugs but didn’t have any money. They drove around until running low on gasoline near Glenbeulah and decided to rob the National Exchange Bank.

Smith’s face was visible on camera as he walked into the bank Aug. 8 to demand money. At first, he placed a bag on the counter and “stated something to the effect of, ‘I have some Yen to exchange,’ ” court records say.

The teller became confused by what Smith wanted until he pulled the handgun and set it on the counter, barrel pointed at the teller.

“The teller hit the panic button,” court records say. “(Smith) demanded money, in denominations of 100s, 50s, and 20s. At some point, (Smith) stated, ‘I saw you hit the button, you better hurry up. Give me the large bills.’ ”

The teller complied, giving Smith approximately $1,390, and he reentered the vehicle with Balgie.

Shortly after the robbery, the maroon SUV’s license plates were once again run by police as it drove through Plymouth. Plymouth Police Chief Jeff Tauscheck said Balgie drove past an officer and turned to look at the squad car as he passed by, which drew the officer’s suspicion.

However, Plymouth authorities had not yet been informed of the SUV’s involvement in the robbery, according to Tauscheck.

“At that point, we didn’t have a description of the vehicle,” Tauscheck told The Review.

That same afternoon, automated license plate readers in Milwaukee recorded the SUV at 12:58 p.m. By that time, the Sheboygan County Sheriff’s Department initiated a “ping” on Smith’s cellphone location.

Just before 2:15 p.m., Washington County officers on the lookout for the SUV stopped Smith and Balgie on an exit ramp from I-41 northbound.

“Balgie was the driver and Smith was the passenger — they were both arrested,” according to court records.

Following searches, police said they found $892 from Smith’s shoe, plus 1.3 grams of cocaine. Police recorded that one-and-a-half grams of fentanyl was recovered from Smith after a strip search.

Balgie was found to have 1.8 grams of fentanyl and 0.2 grams of cocaine on his person, according to police.

A search warrant was then executed on the SUV. Inside were assorted drug paraphernalia including a cocaine pipe, razor blade, and a pen with drug residue. Police said the vehicle also contained foreign currency including Yen, two replica pistols and assorted clothing items worn by the bank robber.

Following his arrest, Balgie spoke with police to provide a statement.

“Balgie admitted he was a drug user,” federal documents say. “He stated that he has known Smith for 4-5 months and … that prior to their arrest, he and Smith were in Milwaukee buying heroin and crack cocaine. While he denied knowing about the bank robberies, he admitted to driving Smith to all three banks.”

However, in subsequent interviews, police said Balgie eventually admitted he was the getaway driver in the Allenton, Menomonee Falls and Glenbeulah robberies.

Smith waived his Miranda rights in a post-arrest interview with police and admitted to his involvement with all three robberies, according to court documents.

Both men were initially held at the Sheboygan County Detention Center before federal charges were leveled against them.

They each face up to 25 years in prison and $250,000 in fines.

Balgie’s plea hearing is scheduled Feb. 13.

Smith is due in court Feb. 2.

Both men agreed to repay money stolen from the banks.

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