ALEXANDRIA, Va. (WRIC) — A 53-year old man was sentenced to more than 5 years in prison this week for a string of robberies in Virginia and Maryland, which struck a series of fast food restaurant, gas stations and department stores across the two states.

Ahead of a final sentencing hearing on Tuesday, April 25, prosecutors and defense attorneys presented divergent views of the role Francis Ford, lately of Upper Marlboro, Maryland, played in a string of robberies in early 2021.

In a sentencing letter, Ford said that the other man implicated in the robberies — Jon Fleet, 62 — was the driving force of the spree and embroiled Ford in the robberies when he was at his lowest point. Fleet was himself sentenced to 17 years in prison earlier this year.

“At the time of the offenses, Mr. Ford was homeless,” he wrote. “He had become homeless after voluntarily leaving his relationship with his young children’s mother.”

At the time of the robberies — from January to March of 2021 — Ford was staying in “overcrowded and violent” men’s shelters, or simply sleeping on the streets.

Certificate for a sober living class Ford completed while awaiting sentencing. (Photo from court records)

“Mr. Ford would describe the despair of simply wanting a warm place to sleep at night, or needing the money to buy a bottle of liquor to drink himself into oblivion,” he wrote. “That is the benefit that Mr. Ford derived from these crimes.”

The most important thing, Ford argued, was that any sentence of more than a year in prison would lose him the housing voucher he had just received when he was arrested.

But prosecutors argued Ford should receive a sentence of no less than 63 months in prison — the penalty that a judge ultimately agreed to impose.

They wrote that Ford had a violent criminal history, and that, though less active in the spree than Fleet, he nevertheless participated in several of the robberies over a span of months.

“Ford’s criminal history includes unlawful firearm possession, drug possession and distribution, and assault,” they wrote. “The defendant also has prior probation violations.”

The total amount of money taken by Ford, according to a statement of facts, was around $687.