As widespread looting hit West Philadelphia’s 52nd Street corridor on May 31, surveillance footage showed a person in a blond wig and surgical mask guiding a stolen forklift as it hauled away a vault from a Wells Fargo bank branch.
Seven weeks after that theft, the FBI has arrested two suspects it says were among a group of culprits.
Prosecutors, in court filings this week, named the wig-wearing bandit as Raphael Shaw, 20, and accused him of making off with $104,000. They alleged that Xavier Nolley-Hall was with him and had entered the ransacked bank intending to steal money.
Both are among a growing number of defendants whom federal prosecutors have charged in connection with the unrest that gripped Philadelphia after the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Shaw and Nolley-Hall’s purported crime played out May 31 as looters ransacked the ParkWest Town Center and the business corridor long known as West Philadelphia’s Main Street. Nearly two months later, residents and businesses are still recovering from that devastation and the heavy-handed police response.
But when Shaw allegedly donned a wig and mask and joined the crowd rushing in and out of the Wells Fargo branch’s broken front windows, few police were on the scene.
Surveillance footage described in government court filings shows the wig-wearing thief, with a distinctive tattoo on his right forearm, surveying the bank alongside the crowd about 6 p.m., then leaving. A man with a shotgun appears outside, sending the crowd of looters scattering. Within moments, the wig-wearer returns, this time guiding an unidentified man driving a forklift, which had been stolen earlier from a Lowe’s store in the same shopping center, agents said.
Investigators identified Shaw after two Philadelphia police officers who had previous contact with him recognized the tattoos on the forearm of the suspect in the video, according to the complaint filed in his case. His license plate number also matched that of a dark-colored Pontiac seen being driven behind the forklift in the surveillance footage.
Agents also discovered photos on Shaw’s Instagram account last month showing him and others brandishing large amounts of cash.
At the time of the bank heist, Shaw was out on bail, awaiting trial for an assault charge in Chester County. He was arrested again for being in possession of a stolen car, three days after allegedly stealing the cash vault.
Agents arrested and charged Nolley-Hall on July 9, but documents detailing that case remain under court seal. Investigators said while he admitted to entering the bank branch that day to steal money, he denied knowing Shaw, even though the two men had been stopped by police together on previous occasions and were shown on the surveillance video together.
Shaw’s attorney did not immediately respond to requests for comment. It was unclear Friday whether Nolley-Hall had retained an attorney. Both remain in custody charged with crimes including entering a bank with intent to commit a felony. Shaw is scheduled for a detention hearing Tuesday.
Since last month, federal prosecutors in Philadelphia have charged at least four other people with crimes that occurred during the unrest of the last weekend in May, including a man accused of attempting to blow up an ATM and a massage therapist charged with setting two police cars ablaze during May 30 protests outside of City Hall.
In a statement Friday, U.S. Attorney William M. McSwain drew a distinction between Shaw’s alleged activities and that of the thousands of peaceful protesters who amassed throughout the city.
“Burglarizing a bank has nothing to do with peaceful protest or any legitimate message,” he said. “Mr. Shaw will now face the consequences of his alleged actions.”