Alleged robber arrested blocks from Citizens Bank; a lifelong saga of crime and incarceration, addiction and desperation, continues

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A police cruiser – one of many – on standby after a reported robbery at Citizens Bank on Elm Street. Photo/Carol Robidoux

MANCHESTER, NH – A city man who has spent most of his adult life in and out of prison – most recently for a 2011 bank robbery on Elm Street – has been arrested in connection with Wednesday’s Citizens Bank robbery, just blocks from the 2011 scene of the crime.

George England, 66, of Manchester was taken into custody and charged with felony robbery, criminal threatening, and resisting arrest. He was transported to a local hospital to be treated for a dog bite that resulted from his arrest with the assistance of police dogs, according to a police press release.

FOLLOW-UP STORY ⇒ Accused bank robber got $17, 2 broken legs and dog-bite wounds

This arrest is only the latest chapter in a life that has been wasted behind bars.

Wednesday’s robbery unfolded at about 4:18 p.m. when police were called for a robbery at the bank, located at 875 Elm St. According to police England told the bank teller he had a gun and he demanded money before fleeing the bank. As police cruisers descended on the downtown they immediately created a perimeter within a two-block area and brought in police dogs to search the streets and alleys.

Police quickly encountered a man meeting the description given by the teller of the robber, later identified as England, and placed him under arrest.

“The prompt and efficient response of Manchester officers was outstanding,” Police Chief Allen Aldenberg said. “Due to their highly coordinated efforts, the suspect was taken into custody within minutes of the crime being called in. I am very pleased with the outcome.”

The backstory

The New Hampshire court, prison and probation system has been central to George England’s life. Access to his complete records were not immediately available.  But his most recent time served was for the Dec. 2, 2011  robbery of Bank of America, 1155 Elm St. in Manchester. There is also an obvious gap in the following narrative – it’s not yet known what England been doing for the past 14 months, since his supervised release expired in November of 2019.

England was arrested on Dec. 5, 2011 by Manchester police, three days after the robbery. After he took the money, about $7,000, he went to the bar and had a few drinks. His public defender told the court he “squandered most of the money,” all but about $500 which was returned to the bank as partial restitution. England told the court he did it because he owed someone money, and that person told him all he had to do was write a note and hand it to a teller, and it would be payday.

That’s what he did.

At that time England was 58 and living at the homeless shelter, a few blocks from the bank. He also has suffered with chronic gastrointestinal problems for years, and had undergone surgery. It was a health problem, he revealed during his sentencing hearing in 2012, that started due to his heavy use of drugs – the only remedy he had ever found to dull the pain of his life.

Below are some of the pieces of the puzzle – not a complete picture – but which perhaps may begin to explain why on Jan. 27, 2021, George England, at age 66, is in jail, facing charges of another bank robbery.

England pleaded guilty to one count of bank robbery on Aug. 27, 2012. He was sentenced on Dec. 20, 2012, to serve 5½ years in prison followed by three years of supervised release. Part of Chief Justice Joseph Laplante’s consideration was that England had previously been incarcerated and participated in Strafford County’s in-house Therapeutic Communities program, a drug and alcohol treatment and behavioral modification program that includes peer mentors. By the end of his stay, England was described by one of the program supervisors as an “all star,” and “quite possibly the most effective peer mentor we have seen in the program to date.”

During the sentencing hearing, the judge heard about issues contributing to England’s lengthy history of lifelong trouble with the law and incarceration for much of his adult life,  – substance use, alcoholism, and the “lingering effects of an abysmal childhood.”

At that time England expressed an interest in addressing the judge directly. He wanted to tell his side of it. His request was granted. Before he spoke, his public defender advised Laplante that England struggles at times with a stutter. Laplante said that would not be an issue.

This is what England said:

“I’ve been battling, struggling with trying to control my addiction to alcohol and drugs all my life, sir. …I’ve relied on alcohol and drugs my entire life to help me cope with life in general. It’s been my coping mechanism as I said. I used it so I wouldn’t feel. I used it to cover up everything, you know, fear, anxiety, just pain, you know, I — that’s what I relied on to help me just to deal with life. That’s what I continued to do and it worked for a long, long time, and it got to the point where, you know, I accepted the consequence. And the consequence always has been for me jail, you know, and as the disease, addiction, progressed, the trouble around me progressed, and the feelings of guilt and remorse progressed along with it, and it just drove me deeper into my addiction and, you know, I just saw no way out of it. As soon as I would get out of jail, I would go right back into it. I needed alcohol and drugs to survive, or at least that’s how I thought.

And I got out of jail last October and I went into the hospital. I thought — prior to getting out of jail I entered into a program at prison. It was a new program. It was the RTU program and I really thought I had a handle on everything. But I had that operation and I got out of the hospital and they put me on a narcotic and I became addicted and my old thinking came back up and I ended up back on the streets. To make a long story short, sir, I ended up in that bank and after I got arrested I realized that — I fully accepted the fact that I cannot drink or drug in safety. I reached that point of desperation where no amount of drugs or alcohol could fill that hole inside me, could cover up that feeling any longer. I had reached that point in my addiction where nothing had worked any longer. I just could not — I just couldn’t go along. I sat in Valley Street and I seriously contemplated suicide at that point. I just could not go on any longer. You know, I’d been exposed to AA in the past and they talked about how jails, institutions, and death, those are the only three things that was the outcome if you continued in your addiction, and I had reached that point in my life where I just could not deal with it any longer, but there was something holding me back from that. I just thought about it and thought about it.

I got transferred over to Strafford County and they talked about the TC Program and I knew that I had to do something. I applied for it and I talked to Chris, one of the counselors in the TC Program, and I told her my thinking and I just asked her and begged her  to allow me to go in there. I went into the TC Program and I was desperate for help. I really was. Then when they asked me if I was — they asked me  if I was willing to do anything, if I was willing and open, that they would help me, and I said I was. I said I just had to be honest and I didn’t know — I just said yes. And they said I need to change — I need to change my thinking. That was my problem all along. I had gone through life with this self-defeating, self-negative thinking, you know, and I just needed — I had to start thinking positive, you know, and I had to deal with some issues from my past and started — I had to let go of some of that stuff, you know, and started processing and, you know, individual group counseling and just working the program and started to deal with these things and talking about things, you know, from the past. I’m getting confused here.

I started working with some of these younger guys, you know, and listening to them and watching them and seeing that they really didn’t have a clue of what was going on and they really didn’t understand about addiction, you know. And I started sharing with them and talking to them and explaining to them how important it was, how deadly this disease is, and explaining to them about how all my lifelong friends are all dead today because of this addiction, and they were starting to grasp the idea of how serious it was. TC is the most important thing that I’ve ever done in my life. It really has — it has changed me. It has given me hope where I never had hope. I really honestly thought that I was going to die of this disease. I was going to die actively with this disease.”

At that point, Laplante asked England if he could put into words what it was that he was drinking and drugging to cope with. England continued:

I had no clue. I just knew that I felt different. I was different. I had these feelings of no self-worth. I just felt — I’ve been an outcast all my life from the time I was a kid. I had this terrible, terrible stuttering problem when I was a kid, the worst one you ever had. I was an outcast from them. The only people that accepted me were people that were different from other people. In order for me to be  accepted by them, I did what I had to do to be accepted, and what included that was the drug addicts and that’s how I got accepted. When I was 16 years old I got introduced to methamphetamine, and the weirdest thing that happened — I went from smoking pot to injecting methamphetamine, and the very first time I injected it, my stuttering problem went away. I found something that made me normal, and that’s where my troubles started. And I did that for three years and for — and after that three years I did it so much I almost died because I had a perforated ulcer. And this is where my medical troubles started. And three operations back to back and because of what was going on, it was such a bad problem, the police got involved, and there was an undercover bust and stuff. People got arrested and the methamphetamine dried up. I needed something to — I was already addicted. I had no idea about addiction or anything like that. I turned to narcotics and alcohol, and that’s when my life just totally fell apart. I hadno idea about addiction or alcoholism. In a blackout, I committed an armed robbery — that’s on my record there — with three other — two other people. I ended up in state prison. Went to prison. There was no alcohol or drug counseling then. There was nothing there at the state prison back in the late seventies or early eighties. I had no idea. I got out on parole. My parole officer said it’s fine to drink as long as it doesn’t cause any problems with the law, my job, or — you know what I mean?

Laplante acknowledged that things have changed with counseling now available within the prison system. England continued:

I’m just telling you what happened, sir. And also I started — not knowing I was an alcoholic, I had no clue, I really didn’t, and eleven months later I’m in trouble again not realizing that I’m an alcoholic. I had no clue. I had no clue. Once again I’m in trouble again. I committed another robbery. By this time I’m shooting cocaine again. It 20 was a snowball effect.”

Laplante delivered his sentence with the understanding that he didn’t “have a crystal ball” and could not know if the jail time would set England on the right path or lead him back to prison.

Sentence served, probation a struggle 

On November 3, 2016, England was released from custody and began his term of supervised release. During the term of supervision, England struggled with drugs and alcohol, which was a violation of his sentencing and probation orders. His probation officer made four notifications of noncompliance which were documented by the court.

  • On January 18, 2017, his probation officer submitted a report that cited England’s possession and use of cocaine and marijuana, and he recommended no action, which the Court approved. 
  • On January 30, 2017, his probation officer submitted a report on England’s possession and use of heroin, cocaine, and amphetamines, and he recommended no action, which the Court approved. 
  • On February 12, 2018, his probation officer submitted a request for modifying the conditions or term of supervision with consent of England. The probation officer noted England’s admission to drinking alcohol and his willingness to participate in a cognitive-behavioral treatment program. The Court approved the recommendation, and England began moral reconation therapy (MRT). 
  • On December 4, 2018, his probation officer submitted a report that cited England’s possession and use of fentanyl and marijuana, and he recommended no action, which the Court approved. 

On April 30, 2019, his probation officer submitted a Petition for Warrant for Offender Under Supervision. It outlined violations for use of synthetic marijuana, use of alcohol, failure to complete a substance abuse treatment program, failure to provide a current address, and failure to complete a cognitive-behavior program (MRT). 

On May 6, 2019, England appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrea K. Johnstone for an initial appearance, during which he was ordered detained. On the same day, the probation officer submitted a Superseding Petition for Warrant for Offender Under Supervision that included two additional violations for use of cocaine and marijuana, and for use of alcohol. The revocation hearing for these violations was scheduled for October 17, 2019. 

Upon his arrival at the Strafford County (NH) House of Corrections, England undertook the extensive process for acceptance into the Therapeutic Community program. In June 2019, he was admitted into the program, and he completed it on September 5, 2019. During his involvement in it, the probation officer spoke with the program manager, who provided positive reports regarding England’s participation. Additionally, in preparation for his completion of the program, England was accepted into Helping Hands, a short-term sober living house, in Manchester. 

On September 9, 2019, England appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Daniel J. Lynch, and he was released on conditions that he reside at Helping Hands or another sober living environment. On September 20, 2019, he was accepted into Tirrell House, a long-term sober living environment, in Manchester. As part of his housing agreement, he was to attend group meetings, and be subjected to regular drug and alcohol testing, and participate in an intensive outpatient program. Furthermore, England had begun attending local self-help groups through his church, and he has returned to a medication-assisted treatment (MAT) program. The probation officer pointed out that England’s willingness to engage in this level of treatment would contribute to his success going forward. He also expressed that England appeared to be more stable and motivated now than at any other time during his term of supervised release. 

In recognition of England’s progress and stability in addressing his addiction, the probation officer requested that the Court allow the probation officer to withdraw the superseding Petition for Warrant or Summons for Offender Under Supervised Release. The probation officer discussed the case with the Assistant U.S. Attorney and defense counsel, who both support this request. England’s supervised release expired on November 2, 2019.

About Carol Robidoux 6697 Articles
Longtime NH journalist and publisher of Loves R&B, German beer, and the Queen City!