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Woman involved in Erie collar-bomb case jailed on prostitution charge in Greensburg

Paul Peirce
88370Hoopsick
Jessica E. Hoopsick, of Erie, faces a prostitution charge in Greensburg.

An Erie woman who was featured in the Netflix true-crime documentary “Evil Genius,” about the renowned 2003 collar-bomb bank robbery case, was detained Friday in the Westmoreland County Prison after failing to post $10,000 bail on a prostitution charge filed by Greensburg police.

Jessica E. Hoopsick, 39, was arrested in Erie County this week after District Judge Chris Flanigan of Greensburg issued a bench warrant when she failed to appear at a July 26 hearing. Authorities brought her to Westmoreland County on Friday.

Greensburg police Detective John Swank reported in court documents that he was working a prostitution detail June 23 when he replied to an advertisement listed on the website “Skip the Games” for a “Busty Blond, 27-years-old.”

Swank reported that he texted the number listed and a woman agreed to meet him in the parking lot near the Hampton Inn on Town Square Drive.

“I requested two-hour service, and she stated the rate would be $250 for two hours,” Swank reported.

Swank also reported that he specified whether the price included specific sexual services, and she texted, “Yes.”

Swank, assisted by patrolmen Hank Fontana Jr. and Chase Mollomo, took Hoopsick into custody when she arrived at the parking lot. Swank said that he told Hoopsick that her name sounded familiar and asked if she had ever been arrested in Greensburg.

“She told me that she had just been in that recent four-part Netflix documentary, ‘Evil Genius,’ ” Swank reported.

According to court documents, Hoopsick also told investigators that she was a crack cocaine user and was engaged in prostitution “not only to fund her addiction, but also because she needed the money.”

During her video arraignment Friday before senior Judge Herb Mitchell of Brownsville, Fayette County, who was acting for Flanigan, Hoopsick said she has two convictions for prostitution in Erie and worked within the past year at a sheet metal plant in Beaver County.

Mitchell scheduled Hoopsick’s hearing for Aug. 16.

The documentary series “Evil Genius: The True Story of America’s Most Diabolical Bank Heist,” which debuted in May, tells the story of Brian Wells. In 2003, Wells, a 46-year-old pizza delivery driver from Erie, got involved in a bank robbery and had a homemade bomb strapped around his neck.

After he robbed a PNC Bank in Summit Township, Erie County, he was stopped by state police in a parking lot with the bomb still strapped around his neck. The bomb detonated and killed Wells.

In the documentary, Hoopsick claimed that she was a favorite prostitute for Wells and that she set him up at the request of the organizers of the robbery plot. Hoopsick, in the documentary, claimed that Wells was innocent and had no involvement in planning the bank robbery that led to his death.

Wells was identified by investigators as an unindicted co-conspirator, although his family maintains he was a hostage. He told state troopers he was forced to wear the collar at gunpoint shortly before robbing the bank.

But Hoopsick’s statements in “Evil Genius” contradicted other evidence in the case, and Hoopsick failed to make the same claims when she testified in a 2010 federal trial, former FBI investigators in the case told the Erie Times-News after the documentary aired.

One of the convicted organizers of the plot, Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong, 68, died of natural causes in April 2017 at a Fort Worth, Texas, medical facility, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons. She was serving a life sentence plus 30 years for the bank robbery plot.

The case remained a mystery until Diehl-Armstrong and her fishing buddy, Kenneth Barnes, were indicted in 2007 on charges they concocted the plot along with her ex-boyfriend, William Rothstein. Barnes later pleaded guilty and testified against Diehl-Armstrong. Rothstein died of cancer before the grand jury returned its indictment.

Investigators said Rothstein made the time-bomb collar using two egg timers provided by Diehl-Armstrong.

Paul Peirce is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Paul at 724-850-2860, [email protected] or via Twitter @ppeirce_trib.

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