- Associated Press - Friday, July 22, 2016

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) - FBI agents were analyzing cellphone data to determine whether two men charged with robbing a casino, carjacking a family and then holding them hostage during a police chase committed other armed robberies, according to a recently signed search warrant.

A sworn statement by FBI Special Agent Monte Shade attached to the search warrant says authorities are seeking GPS and cell tower data that could bolster their case against Thomas Dempsey and Nick West. That information from cellphone providers AT&T; and Verizon, along with historical text message data in the phone companies’ possession, also could link the pair to other recent crimes, the affidavit said.

Those crimes include the May robbery of a home near Dempsey’s residence, a Missoula casino that was robbed twice that month and a Stevensville casino that was robbed later in the month.

Magistrate Judge Jeremiah Lynch signed the search warrant on Wednesday.

Attorneys for Dempsey and West did not return calls on Friday.

Dempsey, West and two women whom authorities said were in the getaway car that abandoned the men have been charged with conspiracy to commit robbery, kidnapping, carjacking and possessing and firing a weapon in furtherance of a crime of violence. All four defendants have pleaded not guilty to the charges, and they are scheduled to go on trial Sept. 12.

They are accused of robbing a Missoula casino on May 27. According to the charges filed in federal court and Shade’s statement, Dempsey and West let a man and his 12-year-old son leave the casino while the robbery was in progress, but then carjacked them and the rest of the five-member family outside while the family was on the phone reporting the robbery to police.

Dempsey fired on police and threatened to kill the 12-year-old boy and his 14-year-old sister unless police backed off from chasing them, according to Shade’s affidavit. After negotiating with a Missoula County sheriff’s official through a 911 call, the men let the children and their grandmother out of the car, but kept the man and his wife as hostages as they fled Missoula and abandoned their car north of the city, Shade wrote.

Weeks before the robbery and carjacking, Dempsey’s neighbor returned home to find his Jeep, guns, safe and cash had been stolen. Surveillance video showed that the Jeep was used in the armed robbery of another Missoula casino on May 8, and witnesses described the robbers as matching Dempsey’s and West’s descriptions, Shade’s statement said.

That same casino was robbed a week earlier by masked men.

On May 19, another armed casino robbery by masked men matching Dempsey and West’s physical descriptions was reported in Stevensville, Shade wrote.

An FBI spokeswoman did not immediately return a call for comment.

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