Federal charges filed against alleged armed robbers

By Katherine Wartell

Federal charges were filed Wednesday against two men accused of robbing a Manhattan convenience store at gunpoint in February.

Frank Hanson, 22, Manhattan, and Dennis Denzien, 20, Manhattan, are charged with one count of interference with commerce by means of robbery and one count of using, carrying and brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence.

It is alleged that the men entered Dara’s Fast Lane on Claflin Road in the early morning hours of Feb. 6, brandishing a .22-caliber, six-shot revolver with an obliterated serial number. They allegedly stole approximately $200 in cash.

Denzien was originally arrested the night of Feb. 6 after Riley County officers executed a search warrant at his residence, which is shared with Hanson, following an investigation into a criminal damage to property case.

Hanson was arrested on Feb. 7 in Grandview Plaza after Riley County police issued a release stating that he was a wanted suspect.

If convicted, the two could face up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 for their first count, and a sentence of between seven years to life and a fine of up to $250,000 for their second count. According to court documents, sentencing for their second count would run consecutively with a sentence for the alleged robbery.

Jim Cross, public information officer for U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom, said the case became federal following cooperation with the Riley County Attorney’s Office. To be eligible as a federal case, he said, it is required that prosecutors show a gun was brandished during commission of a crime.

He said it is a priority of the office to prosecute crimes involving firearms and said such prosecution is encouraged by Attorney General Eric Holder. “We have a big hammer,” he said, indicating that federal prosecution is sought because it can result in longer sentences.

On Thursday, federal charges were also announced for Patrick Scahill, 20, and Virginia Griese, 19, who are accused of setting the fire in Lee Crest Apartments, 820 Sunset Ave., on Feb. 6 that killed Vasanta Pallem, 34, a tenant of the complex. Pallem died at Mercy Regional Health Center of smoke inhalation.

Scahill is reportedly the roommate of Hanson and Denzien, but Cross would not comment on whether the cases are related, saying the matter is not yet of public record.

Scahill and Griese are charged with one count of arson resulting in death.

The case was made federal at the request of the Riley County Attorney’s Office, with Grissom announcing in a news conference Thursday that federal prosecution could result in life in prison without parole for the two.

Officials said from the start of the investigation that federal prosecution was a possibility following the involvement of the ATF, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosive.

On Thursday, Grissom indicated that his office chose to prosecute Scahill and Griese to pursue a possible stiffer punishment.

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