Tucson man pleads guilty to robbing bank
A former certified public accountant accused of robbing a bank last October pleaded guilty to armed robbery and kidnapping Wednesday in Pima County Superior Court.
Christopher Fern, 46, is facing somewhere between seven and 33 1/2 years in prison when sentenced Sept. 25 by Judge Deborah Bernini.
An armed robber walked into a M & I Bank on North Campbell Avenue wearing dark colors, ordered all of the tellers but one into the lobby and told them to get on the ground. He then demanded $100 bills from the one remaining teller, according to search warrant documents.
The robber had a heavy, stocky build, a swollen face and blue eyes, witnesses said. They also said he told them he was terminally ill.
As the robber left with $5,500, he told the tellers not to get up for five minutes.
A man outside the bank saw an armed man walk behind an electrical transformer, come out the other side in shorts and a casual shirt and walk toward the Windmill Inn and Suites.
Once at the hotel, detectives learned that Fern, a regular customer, had just offered to pay for accidentally discharging a shotgun and damaging his room and the room next door.
Surveillance footage also showed Fern leaving his room clad in dark colors nine minutes before the robbery.
Hotel employees also told police they'd just called a cab for Fern.
Detectives called the cabbie who pulled over for them. Fern was inside wearing shorts and a casual shirt, according to court documents.
They seized money, ammunition, guns, a tactical vest, a stun gun, a flashlight, a scope, knives and agent patches from Fern’s hotel room.
Fern has advanced degrees in accounting and was once a CPA with “several leading accounting firms,” defense attorney Skip Donau wrote in court documents. In fact, he was also considered one of the top forensic accountants in the country, Donau wrote.
However, Fern began having hallucinations and experiencing a “severely declining mental status” in early 2000, Donau wrote.
Fern has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, has extreme anxiety with psychosis and a history of suicide attempts, Donau wrote.
Fern doesn’t remember what happened the day of the robbery, Donau told Bernini Wednesday, but now that he is on medication and has read the police reports, acknowledges he robbed the bank.
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