MINNEAPOLIS – Yesterday in federal court in St. Paul, United States District Court Judge Susan Richard Nelson sentenced Sheikh Bilaal Muhammad Arafat, formerly known as Mark Edward Wetsch, to 168 months in federal prison for committing a series of bank robberies in 2011 and 2012. In late April and early May 2013, Arafat, dubbed the Man-in-Black bank robber, pleaded guilty to six counts of bank robbery. Arafat also admitted responsibility for 25 additional bank robberies that occurred in the southern half of Minnesota in 2011.
In his plea agreement, Arafat admitted that from January 11, 2011 to January 3, 2012, he robbed 31 banks in Minnesota while wearing a black mask and brandishing a firearm believed to be real. During the robberies, Arafat took more than $110,000 in total from the 31 banks.
This case was the result of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the police departments of Alexandria, Bloomington, Columbia Heights, Eden Prairie, Faribault, Gaylord, Hastings, Hopkins, Minneapolis, Northfield, Orono, Prior Lake, Richfield, Savage, St. Paul, St. Peter, and Shakopee; the sheriff’s departments of Carver, Dakota, Hennepin, Ramsey, Nicollet, Nobles, Sibley, and Wright Counties; and with assistance from the Minnesota State Patrol. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Deidre Y. Aanstad and Kevin S. Ueland.