GREENEVILLE — A Bluff City man will spend the next eight years in federal prison for the December armed robbery of a Bristol, Tenn., Check Into Cash.
Geoff Billips received a 104-month prison term during a sentencing hearing in U.S. District Court in Greeneville on Wednesday.
Billips faced a four-count indictment charging him with robbery, carjacking and brandishing a firearm during the course of each crime. He plead guilty in April to the robbery and one brandishing charge and faced up to 20 years in prison.
Billips received 20 months in prison on the robbery charge and the 84-month minimum on the brandishing charge. In a court filing, Billips’ attorney had argued for a 100-month sentence, while prosecutors argued for 114 to 121 months.
In a sentencing memorandum, Billips wrote he sincerely regrets the crime he committed and blamed his actions on his downward spiral of financial debt.
“Billips got to the point that he believed his ‘hands were too full’ trying to meet his financial obligations,” the memorandum states. “With Christmas quickly approaching, Billips was worried about providing for his children ... and he began to borrow money from quick loan establishments to cover expenses.”
According to court records, in December 2012 police responded to the Check Into Cash on Volunteer Park regarding an armed robbery to where employees said Billips entered the business, pulled out a black firearm, pulled the slide back and laid the weapon on the counter.
Billips then demanded all of the money from a female employee, who complied, and then he walked out of the business and ran toward Volunteer Parkway.
While police were still responding and canvassing the area, another 911 call came in from Ed’s Pizza, located across the street from the recently robbed Check Into Cash, prosecutors say.
According to court records, Billips again brandished a firearm and approached a man exiting Ed’s Pizza; the man immediately fled into the restaurant while Billips threw a bag near the entrance and walked toward the Bluff City Highway.
When officers approached Billips, he appeared to be surprised, “very nervous” and could not form a coherent sentence when asked questions. Billips gave a conflicting story about his vehicle having a flat tire and how he was searching for a friend of a relative who lived in the area, court records state.
At that point, police detained Billips and soon after discovered some clothing and a pair of sunglasses that matched the description worn by the robber. Officers also found a loaded 9mm pistol, a small bag of loose cash near Ed’s Pizza and Billips’ vehicle parked near the Check Into Cash.
Billips told officers he would never hurt anyone and that the pistol was just for show.