A Virginian who the government said posed as a CIA agent and recruited people to rob banks was sentenced to time served and three years of court supervision as part of a plea deal with prosecutors.
Joshua Brady, of Matoaca, Virginia, must stay away from the Internet for one year and receive mental health treatment, U.S. District Judge John Gibney said today in Richmond, Virginia. Brady, who pleaded guilty in January to sending a forged judge’s signature to Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ) in a dispute over an unpaid mobile-phone bill, was credited for the seven months he spent in jail awaiting trial.
“This isn’t related to CIA delusions,” Gibney said. “This is just criminal activity trying to get something out of Verizon.”
The plea deal resolves more serious charges against Brady, in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, accusing the 26-year-old of being behind at least three attempted bank robberies in the Washington area last year while posing as a federal agent who went by the name Theo.
Through Carolina Villegas, an Army reservist he met on an online dating website called sugardaddyforme.com, Brady persuaded 21-year-old Herson Torres to go into banks in Alexandria and Fairfax County, Virginia, with handwritten notes demanding money, prosecutors said.
Torres said he was brought into the scheme by Villegas, an old high school friend, and that he was told by Brady that the goal was to test the banks’ security.
Torres said Brady told him he could earn $25,000 and a job with the government by taking part in the mission dubbed “Operation Downstrike.”
Villegas has declined to comment about the allegations.
None of the robbery attempts over four days succeeded and Torres was eventually arrested. Torres told police about Theo, the man who hired him and gave all the orders -- even though Torres had never met him. He showed them a so-called immunity letter on Defense Intelligence Agency letterhead that Brady had given him.
The lead detective, John Vickery, had Torres locked up on an attempted robbery charge while he investigated. He soon began receiving calls from Theo, who claimed to work for the Central Intelligence Agency and sought Torres’s release. Theo made similar claims to Washington-area defense lawyers he hired to represent Torres.
Investigators traced the calls to Brady through Villegas, who found a way to get around an Internet program Brady was using to disguise his real phone number.
On Aug. 17, Brady, who lives with his mother in Matoaca, more than 100 miles (161 kilometers) south of the Washington area, was arrested and charged with impersonating a government official and three counts of attempted bank robbery. Each crime carried a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.
Brady was awaiting trial for using a forged federal judge’s signature at the time of his arrest. In the past, Brady had posed as a computer security consultant, a hacker and a University of Virginia law student, federal prosecutors said in court papers.
Brady could have faced as long as five years on the forgery charge. The terms of the plea deal allowed for a sentence of seven months, the time that Brady spent in jail after his arrest. He was released in March to his mother’s custody.
Court filings in Virginia sketch a repeat offender whose father was in and out of prison. Since 2005, Brady had been accused of posing as an entrepreneur seeking multimillion-dollar deals for computer hardware, stealing $1,100 from a woman to whom he promised an Xbox 360, and writing bad checks.
In the past seven years he was charged in three criminal cases. He was found guilty in one, pleaded no contest in another, and pleaded guilty in the third. He was released in 2012 after a year in prison for violating the terms of his sentence in the Xbox case.
Brady’s lawyers argued he suffered from mental illnesses that made him unable to form the intent to commit the crimes he was charged with. Brady has PTSD, paranoid schizophrenia, and schizotypal personality disorder, according to the doctor hired by his lawyers.
After conducting an additional mental exam, the government’s doctor diagnosed Brady with a delusional disorder that could have posed problems during the bank robbery trial.
In an April 30 filing, prosecutors said the court needed to monitor Brady closely to make sure he doesn’t commit more crimes, including getting a confidentiality waiver from Brady so that his probation officer can learn from his doctor whether he was taking prescribed medications and other treatment.
Prosecutors also sought a complete Internet ban as a probation requirement.
“Brady’s mental illness creates significant risks that he will engage in further criminal activity similar to the Alexandria charges,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Moore said in the filing.
Prosecutors said Brady tried to deceive the government’s forensic psychologist who examined him by exaggerating his psychological problems. Brady had “an extreme tendency to endorse rare symptoms of mental illnesses” and the doctor’s results showed Brady was trying to “fake bad,” according to the government’s filing.
In an October jailhouse interview, Brady insisted he was an intelligence agent. He claimed he was being penalized for trying to blow the whistle on the CIA for letting Torres take the fall.
“This was not the kind of operation I wanted to work on,” he said from behind a glass partition in the Northern Neck Regional Jail in Warsaw, Virginia. The purpose of Operation Downstrike, he said, was to train Torres for clandestine work.
“When they pull the alarm, then you have a short time to get out of there,” he said. “You need to be able to escape, and that’s going to be stressful. If you crack under stress, then you’re useless to the agency.”
Neither Villegas nor any of the other robbery participants was ever charged. In October, state prosecutors dropped the case against Torres without explanation.
While remarking upon Brady’s following the terms of his release from jail in March, Gibney said, “other than the occasional bank robbery, he’s done pretty good.”
Moore responded that if Brady doesn’t follow up with his treatment and other sentencing requirements, then additional crimes may be committed by people at Brady’s behest.
“This time, it may not be something the court finds comical, like these aborted bank robberies,” Moore said. “This time it may involve someone being killed.”
During today’s sentencing, Brady, wearing glasses and a brown blazer with khaki pants, disavowed any relationship with the CIA. He thanked Gibney and the justice system for identifying and treating his mental illness.
“Looking back on this, I’m not sure how I could even fathom working for the CIA,” Brady said. “It seems quite silly to me I had those delusions.”
Gibney said the Internet restriction would last for only one year because “in order to survive in modern society, you have to have access to the Internet.”
After the sentencing Brady said he still hadn’t received his computers and other materials seized by the government. When asked for comment he said, “Mental health treatment should get more attention in this country.”
He then added, “That’s about all my lawyer would allow me to say.”
The case is U.S. v. Brady, 11-cr-00314, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Virginia (Richmond).
To contact the reporter on this story: Tom Schoenberg in federal court in Richmond, Virginia, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at email@example.com.