Andrew Dys

Police: Rock Hill bank robbers bounced check to buy getaway car

The convicted bank robber police say hatched a plot to rob a Rock Hill credit union last month has now been charged, along with an accomplice, with opening an account at the same bank and cashing bogus checks there a month earlier.

And as if that weren’t brazen enough, Jay Richard Brantley, 35, and April Marie Blackwelder, 33, also are charged with bouncing a $15,000 check to buy what police say was the getaway car in the Sept. 24 robbery of the ArrowPointe Credit Union on Heckle Boulevard.

Brantley – already facing charges of conspiracy and entering a bank with the intent to steal – is now charged with bank fraud, obtaining property under false pretenses over $10,000, and another count of conspiracy. At the time of his arrest last month, Brantley was on probation after serving time in federal prison for several previous bank robberies.

Blackwelder – already charged with being an accessory after the fact of the robbery – now faces charges of bank fraud, obtaining property under false pretenses over $10,000, and two counts of conspiracy.

The man police say actually walked into the credit union to rob it, James Catledge, 34, is charged with conspiracy and entering a bank with intent to steal. He has not been charged in connection with the bad check scheme.

No additional charges are expected, Rock Hill Police spokesman Mark Bollinger said.

It has been some six weeks for Brantley and Blackwelder.

Brantley, 35, is a former dope dealer who court records show has been in and out of prison for much of his adult life. He spent most of the last decade in federal prison after robbing several banks. In those cases in several states, Brantley and his crew from York would write letters to tellers demanding money, get the cash and flee. They were caught in Mississippi in February 2005.

After getting out of federal prison in January, Brantley came home to York to discover something called Facebook had been developed while he was in prison. Police say he used the social media site to hook up with Catledge, an ex-con from York, and Blackwelder, who claimed in court last month to be from Alabama and York. She told a judge she has a husband and child in Alabama, but she also was identified in court as Catledge’s girlfriend.

By August, police reports show, Brantley had opened up an account at ArrowPointe. Later that month, police say, he walked into an ArrowPointe branch in northern Rock Hill and cashed a $500 check from Blackwelder. Two days later, police say, Brantley went back to the bank and cashed two $600 checks from Blackwelder.

About a week later, Blackwelder and Brantley strolled onto a Rock Hill car lot and bought the white Nissan Altima that police allege was used as the getaway car in the credit union robbery. Blackwelder and Brantley “tendered a (personal) check in the amount of $15,276” – the full value of the car – on Sept. 8 as security for the purchase of the Altima, police say.

Brantley and Blackwelder took possession of the car, dealer employees told police, “with the understanding that they would return within a few days with a bank (cashier’s) check as final payment for the vehicle.”

When Brantley didn’t return with the cashier’s check within a few days, the dealership contacted him, police say. Brantley told the dealer to deposit the personal check – which promptly bounced like a spring, police allege. A second attempt to deposit the check produced the same result.

Then on Sept. 24, police say, Brantley wrote the bank robbery note that Catledge gave to a teller at the ArrowPointe branch on Heckle Boulevard. Police say Catledge then walked to a nearby chicken restaurant, where Brantley was waiting in the Altima and fled. Catledge and Brantley split up nearly $10,000 that was grabbed in the heist, police say, with Brantley getting most of the money.

By the next day, all three had been arrested and the bank reported the fraudulent check cashing. A day later they appeared in court, where Catledge wanted to plead guilty right away but was not allowed to do so. Brantley admitted he was a convicted bank robber, but nothing about the latest crime. Blackwelder admitted in court she owned a white 2010 Nissan Altima, but did not admit anything else.

But police were not done with Blackwelder and Brantley.

On Oct. 1, the car dealership called Rock Hill police to report a fraud involving the bounced check used to buy the Altima. The officer who took the report noticed that the two who allegedly took the car after bouncing the check already were in jail, charged in connection with the bank robbery. Detectives jumped in again with both feet.

So now, with bank robbery charges hanging over his head that can carry as much as 35 years in prison, a platoon of cops walked in to see Brantley at the Moss Justice Center jail, and charged him in connection with the latest fraud allegations. He is being held there without bond.

Blackwelder is in jail on a $240,000 bond. Catledge, who just wanted to plead guilty and go back to prison where he has spent most of his life, is still in jail on the bank robbery charge, on a $50,000 bond.

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