updated 12/9/2007 2:14:58 AM ET 2007-12-09T07:14:58

A Fort Lewis soldier is to serve more than 11 years in federal prison for robbing a Tacoma bank twice so he could pay off debts before he was deployed to Iraq.

Sgt. Christopher Brian Thompson, 29, pleaded guilty in May to armed bank robbery and brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence, the U.S. attorney's office said in a news release.

Thompson told investigators he robbed the bank because he was $25,000 to $30,000 in debt to payday loan agencies and wanted to pay it off before being deployed to Iraq.

U.S. District Judge Franklin D. Burgess on Friday sentenced him to 11 years, nine months in prison and five years of supervised release.

Same branch robbed twice
Prosecutors alleged Thompson robbed a KeyBank branch on March 5 and March 22. He wore a mask and gloves and pointed a gun at employees both times.

In each robbery, he told an employee to fill a sack with money within 30 seconds or the employee would be shot. He counted down the 30 seconds each time, the news release said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Mike Dion wrote in his sentencing memo that although Thompson's gun was not loaded, the bank employees did not know that, and "told the police that they thought Thompson was going to kill them."

Thompson got more than $15,000 from the two robberies. Money from the second robbery was sitting on his kitchen table when he was arrested in his Tacoma apartment, the news release said.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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