Redemption undone: Man stuck up bank to finance film about finding God in prison

Redemption undone: Man stuck up bank to finance film about finding God in prison

By Lukas I. Alpert

Nacoe Brown pleaded guilty to bank robbery after writing 15 books behind bars, one of which he was working to make into a film after his release following a 19-year stint.

It’s a story of redemption with a bad ending.

A man has pleaded guilty to holding up a Florida bank to help finance a film he was trying to make about his path to religious enlightenment while serving 19 years in prison for robbing banks.

Nacoe Ray Brown, 54, was arrested in June after walking into a branch of the McCoy Federal Credit Union in Belle Island, Fla., and handing a teller a note that read: “Keep smiling. I have a gun. Give me all your 100s, 50s, 20s, 10s, 5s. No 1s. Don’t push the alarm!”

The teller handed over $4,296, but police quickly caught up to Brown at a nearby hotel. Prosecutors say bank employees watched as Brown walked out of the branch to a gas station across the street, where he ditched the clothes, hat and mask he wore during the robbery before heading to the hotel down the road.

Police spotted him in the hotel lobby carrying a duffel bag containing the cash and the note he had handed to the teller, prosecutors said.

Upon questioning, Brown admitted he was on probation from his prior prison stint and that he had been in Florida to make a film based off of one of the 15 books he had written behind bars about finding God. He said he had run out of money to produce the film and that is why he robbed the bank, according to recent court filings.

Brown had been released from prison in 2020 after serving nearly two decades for three violent bank robberies in the Baltimore area, during which he beat bank employees while wearing a series of outlandish outfits, like dapper suits and fedoras and hospital scrubs. Brown allegedly stole the money to help keep a gospel dinner theater business he had run afloat, according to testimony at his trial.

Brown had been sentenced to 25 years, but was let out early in part due to his religious work in prison ministering to other inmates, court documents said.

Brown was granted compassionate release as part of the First Step Act, a prison reform bill signed in 2018 by President Donal Trump that had been championed by celebrities like Kim Kardashian, Kanye West, Jay-Z and Meek Mill.

In his application for early release, Brown’s lawyer described his client as “a kind, pious, non-violent man who is at a low risk of reoffending.” He said Brown intended to move to be with his family in Oklahoma, where both his daughters attended Oral Roberts University.

Brown’s original conviction and appeal drew some media attention over the years because the evidence money he allegedly stole went missing. Further complicating Brown’s appeal efforts was the fact that the assistant U.S. attorney who prosecuted him, Jonathan Luna, was found murdered in 2003.

After his release, a Go Fund Me page launched by Brown’s family sought to raise around $350,000 to help him pay his restitution and get started bringing his ministry to the world.

Brown had previously served nearly nine years of a 12-year sentence after being convicted of robbery at age 17, according to a biography published on the website for his ministry, the Joseph Generation. His lawyer did not return a call requesting comment.

-Lukas I. Alpert


(END) Dow Jones Newswires

01-05-23 1504ET

Copyright (c) 2023 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

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