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Church Lady Bandit’ sentenced to 51 years

Courtesy of the FBI

After being found guilty of 12 robberies over an almost five-year period, Sylvete Gilbert, otherwise known as the “Church Lady Bandit” because she wore nice clothes, was sentenced to 51 years in prison Tuesday morning.

FBI Special Agent Harry Trombitas, who has been on the case, said he thought it was an appropriate sentence.

“She robbed 11 banks and one hotel and she scared the heck out of those people,” Trombitas said. “She needs to be held accountable for what she did and I think the sentence reflects that.”

Sean Boyle was the defense attorney for Gilbert during her trial.

“I wasn’t really that surprised,” Boyle said. “I was just disappointed.”

Gilbert, 47, began her string of robberies in 2006, robbing 11 banks and one motel before police apprehended her Dec. 23, 2010. Gilbert robbed several banks throughout Central Ohio, including the U.S. Bank branch located in the Ohio Union, in which she passed a teller a note written on a piece of cardboard that demanded money and indicated she had a gun Oct. 20, 2010.

She was found guilty of all 12 robberies on Jan. 10 in the Franklin County Common Pleas Court.

Columbus police officers apprehended Gilbert after the Dec. 23, 2010, robbery after the dye-pack the teller handed her with the money exploded.

Boyle said 51 years was not a usual sentence for robbers. For manslaughter, a typical sentence is only 18 years, he said.

Gilbert is also required to pay about $14,000 in restitution to the banks, Trombitas and Boyle said.

Trombitas said Gilbert remained reactionless throughout the sentencing.

“When I testified, she was, you know, writing on her desk, on her notepad,” he said. “We made eye contact a few times, but other than that, she didn’t have any kind of reaction.”

Franklin County Prosecutors did not immediately return comment Tuesday evening.

The Columbus Dispatch reported Tuesday that Gilbert committed eight of the robberies while on probation.

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