updated 5/11/2009 4:19:25 PM ET 2009-05-11T20:19:25

A New Jersey man will spend the rest of his life behind bars for his role in a string of bank robberies that led to the death of an FBI agent in 2007.

Francisco Herrera-Genao, 24, was convicted in December of four counts of bank robbery, one count of attempted bank robbery and five weapons counts. He was sentenced on Monday to 117 years in prison.

Wilfredo Berrios and Efrain Lynn were also convicted. They are scheduled to be sentenced on Friday. A fourth man in the case previously pleaded guilty and will be sentenced later in the month.

Authorities said the ring of men hit four banks in central New Jersey before they were apprehended outside a PNC Bank in Readington. In that robbery, FBI Agent Barry Lee Bush, who lived near Easton, Pa., was mistakenly shot and killed by a fellow agent.

The defendants couldn't be charged with Bush's death, but U.S. District Court Judge Anne E. Thompson was allowed to consider it when sentencing Herrera-Genao, and she did.

"There can be no dispute, the agent gave his life because of a set of actions that Mr. Herrera-Genao put into action," Thompson said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jacob Elberg said Herrera-Genao was the leader of the bank robbery crew and fired a semiautomatic handgun in three of the heists. A bank teller was injured during one of the robberies when bullet fragments flew into her eyes.

Declines to speak
Under federal sentencing guidelines, Thompson had to sentence Herrera-Genao to at least 110 years in prison.

Since there is no parole in the federal system, the best outcome Herrera-Genao can hope for is to receive 15 percent off his sentence for good behavior, meaning he must serve at least a century behind bars.

When Thompson asked Herrera-Genao if he wanted to say anything on his own behalf, he declined.

"I would like to, but not right now," he said.

He didn't speak at the hearing again, but waved goodbye to his family with his handcuffed hands as he was led out of the courtroom.

Herrera-Genao's family did speak on his behalf, and pleaded with Thompson for leniency.

His mother, stepfather and cousin apologized to the Bush family for the agent's death, but said Herrera-Genao in effect had nothing to do with it.

"I don't know why they think he is responsible. That FBI agent is dead because they (the FBI) are trigger-happy and couldn't control themselves," Herrera-Genao's cousin, Jennifer Genao, told U.S. District Court Judge Anne E. Thompson.

"They know it was one of them" that killed Bush, she added.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Discussion comments


Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments