A tearful scene unfolded in a Calgary courtroom Friday as the parents, grandmother and little brother of a young bank robber hugged him for the last time before he heads to prison.
"I deeply regret it every single day," Saleem Nasery told Court of Queen's Bench Justice David Gates.
Prosecutors Vicki Faulkner and Ryan Jenkins and defence lawyer Pat Fagan made a joint submission for a six-year prison sentence after Nasery pleaded guilty last month to robbery with a firearm, forcible confinement and wearing a disguise.
"He's got all the right stuff … to make a go of it, to be successful," said Fagan, representing Nasery. "He's got a real good future ahead of him."
Court heard Nasery has been volunteering and received a degree in the time since the robbery.
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Nasery apologized to his victims — the bank employees who were held hostage.
"That's not who I am," he said. "I'm sorry for ruining their lives… I don't want to be remembered as that person."
Gates asked Nasery's parents for some background on his family.
Nasery's father and mother moved to Canada from Afghanistan in the 1980s. His father's engineering degree was not recognized in Canada so he returned to school. For 21 years, he worked in Calgary's oil and gas sector until he was laid off during the downturn. He's been driving a taxi to support his family ever since.
"It's not an unfamiliar experience of people coming to this country with unrecognized experience," Gates said sympathetically.
Gates said he will sentence Nasery next Tuesday.
"This is a really difficult decision."
After adjourning the sentencing to next week, Nasery's mother, father, grandmother and little brother hugged him for the last time before sheriffs took the 24-year-old into custody.
Nasery, 24, and two others, robbed the institution in the southwest community of Mission in November 2014 using information provided by Kenza Belakziz, 22, who worked there as a teller.
Initially, police arrested just the three robbers, believing Belakziz was a victim before they realized it was an inside job. She was arrested a month later.
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Police were able to get set up outside the bank while the robbers were still inside and arrested the three men right away. They had stolen about $12,000 in two bags.
All three were arrested within minutes.
Belakziz had given Nasery a list of employees who would be present during the November 2014 robbery, the layout of the bank, information about the silent alarm, the locations where money was stored and details on bait bills and dye packs.
Several of the employees whose wrists were zip tied together wrote about always looking over their shoulder afterward. The robbers turned off the lights and ordered the employees to "follow instructions or you will be hurt."
Three of the bank employees who were held hostage wrote victim impact statements describing how the robbery traumatized them.
Marlene Martins said her peace of mind has been stolen and she suffers from nightmares, anxiety and stress.
"I have day-to-day reminders of the terror I felt," said Martins.
Christine Reddy said she "wondered every minute and every second if I would ever see my son again."
Belakziz's sentencing hearing has been delayed so the lawyers involved can address the judge's concerns that the proposed sentence of six months in jail was too low.
A sentence of more than six months would put her at a higher risk of being deported to Morocco, where she no longer has family.
The other robbers, Matthew Alexis Valdes and Lucas Wayne Windsor, pleaded guilty in 2015. Valdes received a five-and-a-half year sentence for his role while Windsor got a five-year, two-month prison term.
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