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Police Sergeant's Son Given 2 Life Terms in Bank Heists

September 24, 1997|ANDREW BLANKSTEIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

VAN NUYS — A police sergeant's son was sentenced to two consecutive life terms in state prison Tuesday for his part in bank heists that began by taking bank managers hostage in their homes.

San Fernando Superior Court Judge Charles Peven sentenced Brett Pelch, 28, to 34 years plus two life terms after he was convicted last month of 27 offenses including false imprisonment, assault with a firearm, burglary and conspiracy to commit robbery.

According to prosecutors, Pelch was one of several men--including his brother, Chad, 27, and friend Alex Yepes, 27--involved in the sophisticated ring that targeted banks in Northridge and Santa Clarita in 1993.

Prosecutors won convictions against the Pelch brothers but failed in the Yepes case after a lone juror declined to cast a guilty vote.

Yepes, who also was acquitted of bank robbery charges in U.S. District Court, is scheduled to be retried in November, court officials said.

Chad Pelch will be sentenced Thursday.

Authorities said the men targeted female bank managers by following them home and holding them hostage before forcing them to open bank vaults before the start of the work day.

Before one Northridge bank robbery, police said Pelch terrorized a bank manager, her twin infants and a nanny by holding them at gunpoint in their Canoga Park home.

Yepes, who authorities claim masterminded the operation, contended he was at a rock concert at the time of one of the robberies and under FBI surveillance at the time of another.

Brett Pelch, meanwhile, fled the state before he was tracked down. His father, Los Angeles Police Sgt. Dennis Pelch, was suspended for 33 days for improperly assisting his son while he was a fugitive.

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