Benjamin Pohl
Benjamin Pohl

An Iraq war veteran committed four bank robberies and tried to pull off a fifth after returning home from the Middle East because he couldn't find a job and had no money, his defense attorney said.

Two of the successful robberies, as well as the botched one, happened at the same York Township bank.

"To be honest, to me it's almost like a cry for help," senior deputy prosecutor Seth Bortner said. "He had to know he couldn't get away with this forever."

Benjamin Lewis Pohl, 23, of South Pine Street in Red Lion, pleaded guilty Monday in York County Court to five counts of robbery.

As part of his negotiated plea agreement, Pohl was sentenced to 2-1/2 to eight years in state prison. He's been locked up since his arrest in September, defense attorney Christopher Moore said.

Apologetic: Pohl didn't use a weapon in any of the robberies, according to Bortner, and at least one teller told investigators Pohl apologized for robbing the bank.

"If anybody deserves a break, it's this guy," Moore said.

Bortner said Pohl wasn't robbing the banks to have a lavish lifestyle.

"He would do these every few months when he needed money to pay bills," the prosecutor said. "He did face some real (financial) hardships when he returned to this country. But at the same time, he had to be held responsible for his behavior. ... In my opinion, he expressed true remorse."

The robberies: Pohl robbed Sovereign Bank at 880 W. Broadway in York Township on July 27, 2011, and again on Sept. 8, 2011, York Area Regional Police said. He tried to rob the same bank on June 14, police said.

Pohl also robbed the Peoples Bank at 2587 Cape Horn Road in Windsor Township on Jan. 3, 2012, and the M&T Bank at 4 S. Market St. in Fawn Grove on Oct. 26, 2011, police said.

During the September robbery, Pohl dropped the sweatshirt he'd been wearing while fleeing through a wooded area east of the bank, police said. Officers found the sweatshirt, which was sent to a state police crime lab for DNA testing.

After the M&T robbery, police pulled over a maroon Kia that matched the description of the getaway car, and Pohl was driving, police said. Officers were forced to let him go because they could find no evidence linking him to the robbery, but he remained a suspect, police said.

Search warrant: Then after the attempted robbery -- during which Pohl jumped a counter but fled without getting cash -- witnesses reported the robber fled in a gold Honda sedan.

Investigators knew Pohl drove a gold Honda and went to his home with a search warrant.

They collected his DNA, which a crime lab eventually matched to the DNA found on the dropped sweatshirt, police said.

Pohl confessed to all five crimes after being told of the DNA match, police said.

"He couldn't find a job and didn't have any money," Moore said. "I've been in this business a long time, and I've seen good people do bad things."

-- Staff writer Liz Evans Scolforo can also be reached at levans@yorkdispatch.com.