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Posted on Wed, Mar 20, 2013 : 2:57 p.m.

Man charged in TCF holdup was on parole after serving time for bank robbery

By John Counts


John Joseph Sawaya

Courtesy of WCSO

A 50-year-old man accused of robbing the TCF Bank in Ypsilanti Township over the weekend was out on parole for four bank robberies committed in 2003, state prison records indicate.

John Joseph Sawaya, of Ypsilanti, was arraigned in the 14A-1 District Court by Magistrate Thomas Truesdell Tuesday on one count each of armed robbery and bank robbery.

Sawaya was appointed a public defender and denied any bond, according to court records. State prison records show Sawaya was currently on parole after serving just under 10 years on four counts of bank robbery. He was released from prison in August 2010 and was scheduled to be on parole until August 2013.

Police said Sawaya, dressed in a shirt and tie, walked into the TCF Bank at 2150 Packard Road at the corner of Hewitt in Ypsilanti Township about 2:25 p.m. Saturday and implied that he had a weapon and fled with money.

Even though police don't think Sawaya had a weapon, implying that he did is enough for an armed robbery charge.

“As long as you imply a weapon and the person being robbed is in fear that there is a weapon, then that counts,” said Sgt. Geoff Fox with the Washtenaw County Sheriff's Office.

The next morning, an Ypsilanti police officer recognized Sawaya from the bank surveillance pictures and arrested him on Towner Street, according to the sheriff's office. Police said some of the money stolen from the bank was recovered during the arrest.

John Counts covers cops and courts for He can be reached at or you can follow him on Twitter.


Julia Herbst

Fri, Mar 22, 2013 : 4:45 a.m.

John Joeseph Jingle Heimer Smith....................


Fri, Mar 22, 2013 : 12:10 a.m.

There's the off-chance the ill-gotten gains got laundered through Cyprus and wound up strategically placed in Warren Buffett's Berkshire-Hathaway. That might make Mr. Sawaya your boss when he gets out, somewhere near his sell-by date. Too soon to tell, really.

Patrick Maurer

Thu, Mar 21, 2013 : 3:53 p.m.

Slow learner? He will have another 15/20 to perfect his technique before trying it aga


Thu, Mar 21, 2013 : 1:57 a.m.

Please keep us updated on this story. It'll be interesting to know how much time he gets after doing this four times before.


Thu, Mar 21, 2013 : 1:25 a.m.

I'd like to know who the judge was that granted him parole ... obviously he wasn't ready but she let him out. Shame on her ... though prolly under pressure to reduce prison residence. As usual, a bad boy is duped by a bad girl.


Thu, Mar 21, 2013 : 3:15 a.m.

Judges don't grant parole. Parole boards do.


Thu, Mar 21, 2013 : 3:10 a.m.

Hindsight is always 20-20.


Thu, Mar 21, 2013 : 12:47 a.m.

Criminals serving time for robberies, out on parole, commit more robberies. What is wrong with this picture? There is no rehabilitation in the prison system. The revolving door simply dumps criminals back into the community without any support, job training or hope of survival. How was this guy supposed to make a living, rent a place to live, etc? The prison system is a failure.


Thu, Mar 21, 2013 : 12:14 a.m.

"Hang a thief when he's 50 years, and he'll no steal when he's ae senior citizen." — Robert MacQueen, Lord Braxfield, Lord Justice of Scotland, 1776-1799


Thu, Mar 21, 2013 : 4:27 p.m.

Piney, I will accept at face value your statement about Supreme Court justices and dates. My point is, however true that may be, I think most people see an interval of dates after a quotation as the dates of birth and death. Technically, you may be correct and even following prescribed usage. I simply think it is not as clear as it could be. If you search for his name on the Internet, every link will show you the range in years of his date of birth and death (1722-1799), not the range of his tenure on the High Bench. Regarding the accuracy of your dates, from what I can find, 1776 is the year he became "an ordinary lord of session," not a member of the High Bench which appears instead to be 1788. See,_Robert_%28DNB00%29 In my opinion, if you are going to submit this quotation again in the future, for maximum clarity how about: "Hang a thief when he's 50 years, and he'll no steal when he's ae senior citizen." - Robert MacQueen (1722-1799), Lord Braxfield, Lord Justice of Scotland, 1788-1799. [Or 1776-1799 if you have certain information of his tenure on the High Bench, though I think your starting date of 1776 is wrong.]


Thu, Mar 21, 2013 : 4:49 a.m.

@DBH. You got that right lad. Dint ya ken? The 1776-1799 is when Robbie served on the High Bench. The dates quoted are the Same as those quoted when a Justice of the United States Supreme Court serves on the High Bench! Standard Lawyer Time Line. Geeze DBH; it's not the dates from Year of Birth to Year of Death!


Thu, Mar 21, 2013 : 3:13 a.m.

We've had this discussion before, @PWN. The dates you give can make it seem that the speaker of your quote lived to be only 22-23 years old, whereas the dates you supply are in fact the length of his tenure as the Lord Justice.

Homeland Conspiracy

Wed, Mar 20, 2013 : 11 p.m.

FREE Health care. A bed, 3 meals, clean clothes, free (kind of) rent, cable TV, & a job...just list a few things.

dading dont delete me bro

Wed, Mar 20, 2013 : 7:25 p.m.



Wed, Mar 20, 2013 : 7:24 p.m.

The last sentence of the story: "Money stolen form [sic] the bank was recovered during the arrest." Mr. Counts, that is a pretty damning statement to the accused's presumption of innocence. Do you know why the recovered money is characterized as being stolen from the bank, as opposed to SUSPECTED as being stolen from the bank? Is this an opinion of law enforcement or an admission by the defendant, or has this already been adjudicated as an evidentiary certainty?


Thu, Mar 21, 2013 : 12:09 a.m.

Mr. Counts, I understand the police are stating the money recovered was from the robbery. But can you tell me/us on what basis they are making that claim? You didn't answer my question in my original posting, even though you replied to it in the reply above this one. And, thanks @RuralMom, I am aware of these as possibilities. I am simply looking for how the police KNOW the money is from the robbery vs. why they SUSPECT it is from the robbery. For all I know, the suspect told the police it was, but we are not given a reason in this or the previous story why the police are claiming the money is from the robbery, only that it is.

John Counts

Wed, Mar 20, 2013 : 7:46 p.m.

This has now been properly attributed to police. In a release issued Sunday, the sheriff's office said some of the money that was stolen during the robbery was recovered during the arrest.


Wed, Mar 20, 2013 : 7:34 p.m.

Usually they are found with dyed money, or one of the bills he was found with had its serial number recorded and was given to him by the teller during the robbery. I get what you are saying about Suspected, however there are many things that will let you know right away whether or not you have a culprit or a co conspirator to the crime.

Sam S Smith

Wed, Mar 20, 2013 : 7:11 p.m.

This is sad. Maybe he was having trouble making it on the outside.


Wed, Mar 20, 2013 : 7:04 p.m.

He was so close to being done with parole...why take the chance? I wonder if he feels it was worth it now.

Jojo B

Wed, Mar 20, 2013 : 8:24 p.m.

I don't think the outcome would have been much better for him if he waited until after his parole to rob a bank... :)