Fifth Member Of Masked Gang Receives A Four-year Prison Term

Posted: April 16, 1994

It was sad that confessed bank robber Richard Thomas DeLussey 3d had a

violent father. And tragic that he had four children, the youngest only a week old.

But, a U.S. District Court judge in Camden said yesterday, the public is quickly growing tired of criminals who make excuses for violent acts.

The judge, Joseph Rodriguez, then sentenced DeLussey to nearly four years in prison for his role in a string of Philadelphia and South Jersey bank robberies that netted nearly $500,000. They were engineered, prosecutors said, by a sophisticated and violent gang. Its leader was DeLussey's father.

Sometimes wearing masks of Presidents Reagan and Nixon, the gang members would crash stolen vehicles into bank windows and then spring inside, waving guns to force employees to give them large amounts of money, prosecutors said.

DeLussey, 30, has admitted he was the driver in a December 1990 robbery of a Continental Bank branch in Northeast Philadelphia, and was a backup driver in a January 1992 holdup at First Peoples Bank in Bellmawr. The gang paid him nearly $40,000 for his help, prosecutors said.

That DeLussey eventually cooperated with authorities - and even gave information against his own father - did not erase his guilt, the judge said yesterday.

"The victims will never be able to blot those scenes from their memory, and that cannot be sloughed off because you now say, 'I'm sorry,' " Rodriguez said in the court.

DeLussey was the fifth and final member of the gang to be sentenced.

His father, Richard DeLussey Jr., was sentenced in February to 23 years in prison after other gang members turned state's evidence and outlined the robberies. Three others - Steven Falato, 40, of Willingboro; Harry Manning of Edgewater Park, and Thomas Baran, 30, of Somerdale - received lesser sentences this year.

The younger DeLussey's lawyer argued that he had been lured into the gang by his father, a former Philadelphia police officer. In a courtroom crowded with DeLussey family members, witnesses testified yesterday morning that the defendant had been controlled by his strong-willed father, who took him away

from his mother when he was 9.

Then, family members said, DeLussey Jr. introduced his son to hard-core drugs and a life of crime.

"How many people can say they sat down and free-based cocaine and did methamphetamines with their father?" said defense attorney Eugene Tinari in asking for probation for his client. "He acted under the undue influence of his father."

The defendant's mother, Bernadette Atkins of Delaware County, wept on the stand and pleaded for mercy for her son.

"He never got in any trouble before. He was a good kid," she said.

Atkins told the court that her son had been led into the gang because of his drug use.

But U.S. Attorney Paul Zoubek said that was no excuse. Most of the money gained in the bank robberies was used to buy cocaine, he said, which gang members then snorted.

"This is a group of bank robbers who did not have much to show for these robberies," Zoubek said, "because most of the money went up their noses."

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