Pocatello man's bank robbery career ends after $175K heist

U.S. District Judge Alan B. Johnson in Cheyenne ordered Donald Sample, also known as Donald Alexander Sheriff, 60, to pay $178,375 in restitution. (Photo courtesy Lincoln County Sheriff)

A Pocatello man has been sentenced to 30 years in federal prison for bank robbery and use of a firearm.

U.S. District Judge Alan B. Johnson in Cheyenne ordered Donald Sample, also known as Donald Alexander Sheriff, 60, to pay $178,375 in restitution.

Sheriff was convicted by a jury on June 30. He was sentenced to serve 23 years for bank robbery and 7 years for use of a firearm during the crime. He will serve the two terms consecutively.

According to court documents, Sheriff robbed the Wyochem Federal Credit Union in Green River, Wyoming on June 1, 2013. He made away with $175,300, which was the largest single loss in Wyoming history.

The U.S. Attorney's Office argued Sheriff "cased" the bank prior to the robbery, then wore a fake beard as a disguise and latex gloves to avoid leaving fingerprints or DNA evidence. He also wore an earbud connected to a police scanner so he could hear local police calls. Prior to the robbery, Sheriff disabled the rear lock of the credit union, forcing the victim teller to a door where he was lying in wait.

According to the court, Sheriff confronted the female teller, produced a firearm, and forced her inside. He then made her deactivate the alarm and open the vault. He emptied the vault and placed the money inside a garbage bag. He then made the woman lie on the floor where he used flex ties to bind her hands behind her back before binding her feet together.

The entire robbery took less than ten minutes.

On August 26, 2013, there was another bank robbery at the 1st National Bank in Afton. Afton Police, the Lincoln County Sheriff's Office and Wyoming Highway Patrol took Sheriff into custody about 20 miles south of Afton.

Inside his vehicle, police found earbuds, latex gloves, a false beard, a police scanner, an Apple iPhone wrapped in tin foil, the bank robbery demand note, and about $8,000 in cash that was taken from the bank.

Sheriff pleaded guilty to state robbery charges in March 2014 and was sentenced to 35 years in prison under the custody of the Wyoming Department of Corrections.

He was categorized as an armed career criminal based on his conviction for 10 prior bank robberies between 1982 and 1989. He was released from his 1989 prison sentence in 2008 and successfully completed supervised release in 2011.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Stephanie I. Sprecher.

Agencies involved in the investigation included the Green River Police Department, the FBI, Afton Police Department, and Lincoln County Sheriff's Office.

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