Former Columbus police officer Edward Pascucci had been jobless for more than a year and was facing homelessness last summer when he decided to rob a local bank. Making off with stacks of cash, however, never was his intention.
Pascucci told a federal judge on Thursday he’d run out of options, was facing “severe health problems” and opted to avail himself of the services offered by the federal penal system rather than live on the street.
“I didn’t want to be homeless,” said Pascucci, addressing U.S. District Judge Clay D. Land in a clear and confident voice. “I should not have manipulated the justice system, but I couldn’t think of any other way to get help.”
In keeping with the terms of a plea agreement, Land sentenced Pascucci to five years and three months behind bars followed by three years of supervised release. He’ll be given credit for time served awaiting sentencing.
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Land did not impose a fine in the case, citing Pascucci’s inability to pay one.
Shackled and dressed in a yellow jumpsuit with the word “federal” emblazoned on it, Pascucci apologized to the employees of the Citizens Trust Bank, to his former colleagues in the Columbus Police Department and to the “community at large.”
“I had no funds whatsoever left to live on,” said Pascucci, who according to personnel records graduated magna cum laude from State University of New York Institute of Technology with a bachelor’s in business/public management. “I did this foolish thing hoping I’d get some kind of care.”
Public defender Victor Arturo Arana told Land his client never intended to hurt anyone. Pascucci carried an unloaded revolver into the bank that the teller never saw, he said.
“I don’t think he ever intended to pull it out,” Arana said.
Pascucci, who also served in the Marines, Army and Army Reserve before becoming a police officer in 1989, pleaded guilty in October to one count of bank robbery. He walked into the Macon Road bank about 11 a.m. on Aug. 3 carrying an unloaded .357-caliber handgun. He presented a note to the teller that read, “This is a stick up, hand over the money,” according to court documents.
The teller gave him $1,040, prosecutors said, and Pascucci walked out of the bank. A security guard stopped him on the premises and held him until police arrived.
Once in custody, Pascucci told the FBI he attempted the heist because he was having prolonged money troubles. He indicated in a financial affidavit that the only income he’d received in the past year was a $3,000 gift from his father.
The plea agreement also says Pasccuci admitted to having thoughts of suicide.
Pascucci told authorities he removed the bullets from the gun before entering the bank. Officials later recovered those bullets during a search of Pascucci’s white Geo Metro.
Pascucci, 54, served as a police officer for nearly 15 years, but had a troubled employment history that prompted a psychologist in 2002 to recommend he no longer serve on the force. He transferred to animal control that year, records show, but resigned in March 2006 in lieu of an appeal for unprofessional conduct.