AURORA | A man convicted of robbing an Aurora Post Office while holding two employees and a customer at gunpoint last fall has been sentenced to eight years in federal prison, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Colorado announced Friday.
A federal judge formally sentenced Willie Phillip, who was 54 at the time of the crime, earlier this week.
In May, Philip agreed to plead guilty to one count of “assault/robbery involving mail/money or other property of the U.S. using a dangerous weapon,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Investigators determined Philip brandished a handgun shortly after he entered the Post Office at 1074 Ironton St. around 4 p.m. Nov. 8, 2018. He then instructed a pair of employees to get on the ground and tie their hands together using zip ties he tossed in their direction.
While one of the clerks did not put the zip ties on because she didn’t know how to, the other clerk complied with the instruction to bind his hands, according to a complaint filed in federal court last November. But the male clerk quickly removed one of his hands from the bindings because Philip told him to stand up, and he couldn’t do so while bound.
Philip, who was dressed in all black clothing and wearing a balaclava on his face, then stole approximately $5,200 from the cash register and checked the safe before fleeing the area on foot.
Several hours after the robbery, authorities arrested a husband and wife from Aurora on suspicion of committing the crime.
While a criminal complaint was filed against the couple, the case was dismissed about a week later, according to federal court filings.
The couple denied committing the crime, but told authorities they were near the Hamburger Stand on Havana Street at the time of the robbery to buy cocaine from a relative, who they identified as Willie. They described him as a bald man wearing dark clothes and carrying a drawstring bag.
Philip wasn’t indicted in the case until Dec. 4, 2018, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Investigators used DNA obtained from a balaclava and gloves found near the scene to trace Philip to the crime.
Despite federal authorities offering a $25,000 reward for information related to Philip’s whereabouts, he evaded arrest until federal and local investigators tracked him to a home in Denver in early January. He eventually surrendered after initially barricading himself inside the residence.
Several federal, state and local agencies, including the Aurora Police Department and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, investigated this case.
“Anyone who chooses to endanger United States Postal Service employees or our customers will bring to bear the full power of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service,” Bill Hedrick, head of the Denver division of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, said in a statement.
Upon being released from prison, Philip will serve five years of supervised release.