South Bend man who robbed Fifth Third sentenced to prison

Published 7:21 am Saturday, May 11, 2024

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

CASSOPOLIS — A South Bend senior citizen who robbed the Fifth Third Bank in Cassopolis last year was sentenced to prison Friday in Cass County Circuit Court.

Dennis Carl Love, 71, of South Bend, was convicted of bank robbery and larceny in a building by a Cass County jury in April and was sentenced Friday to 48 months to 40 years in prison on the bank robbery charge and credit for 435 days served on the larceny charge. He must pay $1,116 in fines and costs and $305 in restitution.

The incident occurred Feb. 27, 2023, at the Fifth Third Bank on South Broadway in Cassopolis.

Testimony at the trial showed that Love drove to Cassopolis in a dark colored van and spent several hours casing the bank. He was shown on video entering the bank wearing a motorcycle helmet and a face mask and demanding money from a teller. He got $1,554 which he put in a Dollar General bag before shuffling out the door and back to his van.

Cass County Prosecutor Victor Fitz noted after the trial that Love had been convicted of bank robbery, brandishing a firearm during a robbery and attempted bank robbery previously for bank robberies in Indiana and Michigan. He most recently was in federal prison from 2014 to 2020 when he was released due to COVID.

“Mr. Love is a very selfish man,” Fitz said Friday. “… All of his actions including gambling away $150,000 and taking his family’s mortgage money are the exact opposite of those of a responsible adult. These were selfish, dangerous actions.”

Fitz noted that Love had wasted his education including the nursing degree he had. “He went down the wrong road too many times,” he said. “We’re asking that you go outside the guidelines and sentence him to 10 to 15 years in prison.”

Defense attorney Robert Drake asked for the opposite, suggesting that Love should be sentenced at the low end of the guidelines. He said Love committed all the bank robberies after his 60th birthday and after he had suffered a series of strokes.

“His family and his doctor say that he is not the person who existed prior to his 2006 stroke,” Drake said. “His family said it impacted his personality significantly and attribute the stroke to his changes in behavior. He was a successful nurse before the strokes and had a zero-criminal history.”

“I understand the prosecutor’s position that you took advantage of the compassionate COVID relief you received,” Cass County Circuit Judge Mark Herman said. “You turned around and started gambling again, blew through his inheritance and went back to using marijuana. From your own statements, you were going to Kalamazoo to get more pot when you robbed the bank.”

Judge Herman described the circumstances of the robbery and Love’s description of what happened as “bizarre.” “You said you loaned a hitchhiker your van and let him drive away,” he said. “When he returned, you said you could see a large amount of cash. It’s preposterous that you would loan your van to a hitchhiker and he went and committed a bank robbery with your helmet and t-shirt and then leave all the money for you in your van.”

The judge deviated upwards from the sentencing guidelines where the maximum sentence was 38 months in prison. “I do believe there should be a deviation when I look at your history,” he said. “You spent seven years in the federal system and then turn around right after that and go back into the same ventures.”

“The evidence I saw in the courtroom was probably the most conclusive evidence I’ve seen. It was not proof beyond a reasonable doubt but beyond all doubt,” the judge said. “… You are not the honest good person your family portray. You’ve been using drugs and committing bank robberies numerous times. It doesn’t appear to me that you have any intention of stopping.”

Also Friday, a Niles man who was found with more than 100 grams of fentanyl was sentenced to probation.

Dillon Wayne Crespo, 32, of Yankee Street in Niles, pleaded guilty to delivery/manufacture of fentanyl and was sentenced to three years probation in mental health court, credit for 34 days served, completion of the Twin County Probation program and $1,778 in fines and costs.

The incident occurred June 2, 2023 when police went to his home on a search warrant. Judge Herman reported that they found 130.5 grams of fentanyl worth between $9,000 and $10,000.

Crespo said he has sincere remorse and feels terrible about what he put his family through. “I don’t want to put them through that ever again,” he said. “No matter what happens today, I will pursue a better lifestyle.”

Judge Herman said he would give Crespo a chance on probation but warned him that he will go back to prison for a longer prison term if he violates his probation and is found with drugs again. Crespo was previously sentenced to prison for five years from 2016-21 on drug charges.

“If you love your kids, you’re throwing your life away and theirs as well,” he said. “You’re doing them a huge disservice … Drugs and kids are mutually exclusive. People say they have kids and ask me to be lenient, they want to use their kids when come in here.”

In other sentencings:

•. Carolyn Elizabeth Chaline, 39, of Dowagiac, pleaded guilty to possession of methamphetamine and was sentenced to 18 months probation, credit for 54 days served and $2,148 in fines and costs. The incident occurred Dec. 21 in Dowagiac.

• Brian Easterday Johnson, 45, of Mishawaka, pleaded guilty to possession of methamphetamine and was sentenced to $1,048 in fines and costs. He is currently in prison in Indiana. The incident occurred Feb. 12, 2022 in Edwardsburg.

• Donte Lofton, 36, of Vineyard Place in Dowagiac, pleaded guilty to carrying a concealed weapon and domestic violence and was sentenced to 365 days in jail with credit for 91 days served and $748 in fines and costs. The incident occurred Feb. 10 in Dowagiac after an altercation with his girlfriend over pizza.