4 charged in conspiracy to rob bank, plant hoax bomb at Trussville elementary school as diversion

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Four suspects accused of involvement in a conspiracy to rob a bank by placing a hoax bomb at a Trussville elementary school as a diversion have been charged in an indictment, acting U.S. Attorney Robert Posey announced Monday.

The four people charged are 35-year-old Zachary Edwards, 34-year-old Ralphel Maurie Edwards (also known as Ralphel Maurie Dilligard), 30-year-old Quinese Nicole Nichols and 27-year-old Wendell Roy Nichols Jr, all of Birmingham. Officials say the two Nichols are siblings, but the two Edwards are not related but did live together.

The four suspects are named in a four-count indictment filed on Jan. 24 in the U.S. District Court. The indictment alleges the four conspired in November to take money from a BBVA Compass Bank location in Trussville, by “force, violence, and intimidation.” The indictment also charged Zachary Edwards and Quinese Nichols with conspiring to carry a firearm for a crime of violence. Posey says it further charges Zachary Edwards with two counts of being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm–a Ruger 9 mm and a Mossberg 12-gauge shot gun.

ATF bomb threat school trussvilleThe press release from Posey’s office described the following as details of the conspiracy according to the indictment:

In early November, Zachary and Ralphel Edwards and Quinese Nichols discussed plans to rob a bank. Soon thereafter, Zachary and Ralphel Edwards obtained a cardboard box, a stopwatch, strands of wire, gunpowder, Play-Doh and duct tape, which Zachary Edwards used to construct a hoax explosive device. On Nov. 16, Zachary Edwards and Quinese Nichols drove to Magnolia Elementary School in Trussville, where Zachary Edwards placed the hoax device on the hood of a truck in the school’s parking lot. He then called 911 and, while disguising his voice, falsely reported to Trussville Police that he had just seen a Hispanic male place a suspicious package on a vehicle at the school.

Armed with the Ruger pistol, the two then drove to a parking lot near the Compass Bank on Chalkville Mountain Road, which they had visited two days earlier to familiarize themselves with the location. Ralphel Edwards and Wendell Nichols were parked nearby in separate vehicles to serve as lookouts for their co-conspirators.

 Zachary Edwards and Quinese Nichols left Trussville without attempting to rob the bank after seeing what they believed to be a police officer close to where they were parked near the bank.

The maximum penalty for the bank robbery conspiracy is five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The maximum penalty for conspiracy to possess a firearm during a violent crime is 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, and the maximum penalty for being a felon in possession of a firearm is 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Both Nichols reportedly turned themselves into U.S. Marshals Friday and bonded out. Both Edwards are being held in the Jefferson County Jail on unrelated charges.

Pictured: Zachary Edwards and Ralphel (Dilligard) Edwards.
Pictured: Zachary Edwards and Ralphel (Dilligard) Edwards.

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