Missouri bank robbery ‘tipster’ gets 30 years in prison

A supposed tipster who met with an FBI agent about a bank robbery turned out to be the robber himself, and he was sentenced Friday to 30 years in prison.

John H. Coleman, 52, of the 1300 block of Locust Street in St. Louis, robbed the First Bank at 710 Olive Street on Feb. 1, 2011. According to St. Louis Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce, he walked up to a teller and gave her a note that said, “This is a robbery. You got two seconds before I start shooting.”

He gave the teller a plastic grocery bag and started counting down. The teller emptied the drawer into the bag and Coleman fled.

The robbery was caught on surveillance video, but police didn’t have any leads until a male “informant” contacted the FBI and met with an agent.

In exchange for the tip, the man hoped to get help with his parole officer. The man gave officials details about the robbery that only someone involved with the crime would have known, Joyce said.

The agent noticed the man looked similar to the description and pictures of the robber, and decided to put the informant in a photo lineup. The teller and another witness identified the informant as the robber. The informant was Coleman.

After a jury trial in June, Coleman was found guilty of first-degree robbery. Assistant Circuit Attorney Tanya Engelhardt asked that the judge give Coleman 30 years, noting Coleman has 13 prior convictions for stealing and has felony convictions dating back to 1979. St. Louis Circuit Court Judge Elizabeth Byrne Hogan presided at the sentencing.