Gary woman gets 25 years for role in Calumet Township bank robbery where guard from Tinley Park killed

A Gary woman was sentenced to 25 years Friday in federal court for her role in a June 11, 2021 Calumet Township bank stickup that left a security guard from Tinley Park dead.

Briana White, 29, signed a plea deal admitting to armed bank robbery and murder resulting from the discharge of a firearm during the bank robbery.

She will serve two years on probation after she is released. White was the last defendant sentenced.

Federal court records allege White, who was then pregnant, helped with planning, called the others during the robbery as she listened to the police scanner.

Her fiance, Hailey Gist-Holden, planned the robbery, because he was running out of money as the owner of the Illini Panthers, a fledgling second-year semipro football team. “Coach Hailey” couldn’t cover the rest of their hotel bill, so Gist-Holden allegedly got the players to help him rob the bank, federal court filings show.

Police were called just after 1 p.m. to First Midwest Bank on the 1900 block of W. Ridge Road in unincorporated Calumet Township.

Surveillance video showed two men in all black approached the bank from a wooded area southeast, according to charging documents. Gist-Holden shot the security guard in the face, who dropped to the ground, records state.

The guard later was identified as Richard Castellana, 55, of Tinley Park, Illinois, by the Lake County Coroner’s Office. He retired in 2019 as a Cook County Sheriff’s Deputy after more than three decades.

Arrested on foot, co-defendant James King, of Miami, one of his players, was the first suspect charged – in Lake Superior Court – before federal prosecutors stepped in and indicted him days after the robbery.

King admitted in his plea agreement coordinating with Gist-Holden, teammate Kenyon Hawkins and White in the robbery. Hawkins would be the get away driver in a U-Haul that Gist-Holden rented, while White would listen to the police scanner.

Documents alleged Gist-Holden would “handle” Castellana, shooting him dead before King went inside to get the cash.

A handgun and $9,000 cash in a black backpack were found about 25 yards from where King was arrested, police said. Gist-Holden was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences.

The team’s football players were recruited from other states like Florida, Texas, Georgia and California.

That day, Gist-Holden picked up Hawkins and King from the hotel and took them to his Gary home. There, White and Hawkins eventually convinced King to help with the robbery, Assistant U.S. Attorney Caitlin M. Padula wrote.

King, an aspiring NFL prospect, had joined the minor league Panthers in 2021 partly to create his recruiting reel, since the 2021 NFL Combine was cancelled due to COVID-19. Just before, King had worked as a bank security guard in his native Miami.