PROSECUTORS GET FBI KUDOS FOR OBTAINING CONVICTION.
In rare letters of commendation, FBI Director Louis J. Freeh thanked two Los Angeles County prosecutors Tuesday for convicting Alex Yepes, who masterminded bank robberies in Canyon Country and Northridge.
Deputy District Attorneys Stephen L. Cooley of Toluca Lake and Susan Chasworth of Calabasas received the letters from Wylie B. Cox, special agent in charge of Los Angeles, during a ceremony at FBI headquarters.
``The citizens of Los Angeles have been and continue to benefit from your hard work, and my associates, and I share their gratitude,'' Freeh wrote.
Following a failed attempt by federal prosecutors to convict Yepes, Cooley and Chasworth filed state charges and successfully tried him in November.
The charges stemmed from the 1993 robberies of a Trans World Bank in Canyon Country and Coast Federal Bank in Northridge committed by Yepes, 30, and his cohorts.
Cooley, former head of the San Fernando branch of the District Attorney's Office and now head of the Welfare Fraud Division, filed state charges against Yepes and two of his accomplices, Brett and Chad Pelch, the sons of a Los Angeles Police Department sergeant. Cooley assigned Chasworth to prosecute the case.
In 1997, the state prosecution led to guilty verdicts and life sentences for the Pelch brothers. But the jury remained deadlocked 11-1 in favor of a guilty verdicts on all major counts against Yepes. After a three-month retrial, Chasworth convinced jurors that Yepes' alibis were bogus.
Judge Charles Peven sentenced Yepes to two life sentences and 35 years, which he is serving consecutively.
In the two letters of commendation, Freeh praised Chasworth's ``withering questioning'' of Yepes. Freeh thanked Cooley for maintaining a ``hands-on'' style of supervision.