Three men were arrested Wednesday morning in connection with a bank robbery earlier this month on the Westbank while allegedly preparing to commit another one on South Carrollton Avenue, New Orleans police said — thanks to a tip of suspicious activity at a house on Cohn Street.
Around 9 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 27, a possible break-in in progress was reported at an abandoned home in the 8300 block of Cohn Street, according to a NOPD report. When police arrived, they found three 23-year-old men — Arlander Celius, Samuel Taylor III and Jonathan Baham — inside wearing “heavy, dark-colored clothing” and possessing masks made of cloth and duct tape, all of which is believed to have been intended to conceal their identities, the report states.
Police also found a 12-gauge shotgun and a handgun, the report states. They also found evidence at the scene related to a Sept. 7 bank robbery on General DeGaulle Drive in Algiers, so the NOPD detectives called in the FBI, the report states.
“Further investigation revealed that all three subjects were reportedly conspiring to rob a bank on South Carrollton Avenue, but that officers arrived at the Cohn Street location minutes before the robbery was set to occur,” the report states. “In addition, evidence gathered during investigation aided in detectives developing Taylor as the perpetrator in the General DeGaulle bank robbery.”
Taylor was arrested on federal bank-robbery charges; Celius was charged with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon; and all three were charged with simple burglary and simple damage to property for the Cohn Street incident, the report states. “All three individuals were taken into federal custody and face pending charges of conspiracy to commit bank robbery,” the report concludes.
NOPD Second District Commander Shaun Ferguson credited the arrests — and the likely thwarting of a bank robbery — to the concerned citizen who first called to report the Cohn Street break-in. People are often unsure of whether something is worth calling the police about, Ferguson said, but this case shows the value of calling 911 whenever you see something suspicious, giving the police the chance to determine its importance.
“This all started because a citizen saw something and they called us,” Ferguson said. “They actually did call us, and this evolved into something much greater than a simple burglary.”
Anyone with more information about the Cohn Street break-in should call Second District detectives at 658-6020. To report information on the bank robberies, call the FBI New Orleans Field Office at 816-3000.