EVERETT — An Everett man who fell on hard times and turned to robbing banks was sentenced Wednesday to nearly nine years in prison.
Christian Franzwa robbed seven Everett banks in 2015, making off with more than $33,000. The FBI nicknamed him “Beardo” because of the fake facial hair Franzwa used to hide his identity. The Everett man hit his first bank June 2015. His last heist was in December of that year.
He robbed a Columbia Bank in Everett three times, terrorizing the same tellers who didn’t know the firearm Franzwa flashed was a pellet gun. One of those tellers attended Thursday’s hearing. The woman helped police nab the suspect after she recognized him while they were both shopping at a Fred Meyer.
Franzwa used a food stamp card to make purchases at the store. Police were able to track him down using the card number. They arrested Franzwa in February 2016 as he entered a bank wearing his trademark disguise. He pleaded guilty earlier this month to four counts of first-degree robbery and a single count of first-degree theft.
The former Columbia Bank teller on Thursday told Superior Court Judge Eric Lucas the robberies changed her. She has suffered from nightmares and has sought counseling.
“I lost time with my kids and family,” the woman said. “I can’t get that time back.”
She asked Lucas to sentence Franzwa to the maximum, a request echoed by Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Matt Hunter.
“We need that peace of mind,” the woman said.
Franzwa, 59, is forbidden from ever contacting the woman. He offered her a tearful apology Thursday.
“Nobody should have to worry about coming to work,” he said.
A clean-shaven Franzwa told the judge there is no excuse for his actions.
His attorney, Jon Scott, offered some explanation for his client’s behavior. Franzwa cleaned up his life after a drug addiction led to nine property and drug crime convictions in the late 1990s. He got a job in the mattress industry, bought a house in Mill Creek and provided for his family.
The recession hit in 2008 and Franzwa found himself unemployed and on the verge of being homeless, according to court papers. His wife became gravely ill and the family’s medical bills piled up. He received word in May 2015 that the family was going to be evicted because he couldn’t make rent.
“From this desperation, he hatched the harebrained scheme to rob a bank. And so he did,” Scott wrote in court papers. “His thinking at the time was that it wouldn’t really hurt anyone and the banks were insured so they would not even lose the money that was taken.”
His client has since realized that his crimes did harm people. Knowing that he scared the tellers made him feel like a bully, Scott said.
The public defender asked the judge for leniency, saying Franzwa wasn’t out robbing banks to feed a drug addiction or buy fancy cars. Even so, his client knows that he made bad choices.
Every day people face adversity, Lucas said. If they meet those challenges with courage and resolve, good things often follow, he said.
“Trying to transfer the pain to somebody else never works,” Lucas said.
Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; email@example.com.