Fugitive Manhunt: FBI Posts $50K Reward for Info on Convicts (Updated)

Patch goes through the timeline of Tuesday's events as two convicted bank robbers escaped from a downtown Chicago prison and made their way to Tinley Park.

UPDATED (10:59 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 19): The FBI announced Wednesday morning that it is offering a $50,000 reward for information leading to the capture of Joseph "Jose" Banks and Kenneth Conley, according to an agency press release. 

Anyone with information on the two men should contact the FBI Chicago office at 312-421-6700 or other local law enforcement.

Two convicted bank robbers who escaped a federal prison in downtown Chicago on Tuesday morning and fled to Tinley Park were still at large.

Law enforcement officials searched the village and surrounding communities throughout the day for Joseph "Jose" Banks and Kenneth Conley, following tips and information from the public. 

Patch breaks down what happened Tuesday, who was involved, putting together a timeline of events as authorities continue their efforts to capture these dangerous fugitives.

The Convicts

Joseph "Jose" Banks, 37: Known as the Second-Hand Bandit, Banks was convicted of two bank robberies and two attempted holdups Dec. 13, the Chicago Tribune reports. In those robberies, he stole almost $600,000, and authorities are still looking for $500,000 of it, the report continued.

One day during his trial, Banks was restrained from leaving the courtroom, and 10 deputy U.S. marshals were brought in when the verdict was read, the report stated.

Banks is described as 5 feet 8 inches, 160 pounds and black. He was originally wearing an orange jumpsuit but now might be wearing a white shirt, sweat pants and white gym shoes.

Kenneth Conley, 38: Formerly a floor host at a Chicago Heights strip club, Conley used to live in Tinley Park, the Tribune reports. He pleaded guilty in October to robbing a bank in Homewood of almost $4,000, the report stated. Right after the robbery, Conley went to the strip club to pay back a fellow employee $500, the report continued. He wore the same black suit and white tie that he had on when he robbed the bank, the report stated.

Conley is described as 6 feet, 185 pounds and white. Like Banks, he was originally wearing an orange jumpsuit but now might be wearing a white shirt, sweat pants and white gym shoes.

The Escape

The bank robbers staged a daring escape from their downtown cells in the Metropolitan Correctional Center in the Loop—one of the world's only skyscraper prisons. Authorities discovered a knotted rope or bedsheet dangling from a window high above the street.

Homeland Security and U.S. Marshal's Service agents, according to AP, were trying to find security camera footage from businesses neighboring the jail. Randy Cohen, owner of the Royal Jewelry and Loans store, said he didn't think his cameras were pointed in the right direction to record the escape.

The men escaped between 5 a.m. and 8:45 a.m., according to a report from the Chicago Tribune.

The facility, which houses around 700 inmates, is one of the only skyscraper prisons in the world, said Jennifer Lucente of Chicago Architecture Foundation told AP that architect Harry Weese designed the building in the mid-1970s, and its triangular shape limits the number of blind spots for guards. Each cell has a window as part of the building's humane design, she said.

The House

Authorities were tipped off that Banks and Conley had been seen in Tinley Park Tuesday morning, said Frank Bochte, a special agent spokesman for the FBI, which coordinated the search and worked with local law enforcement agencies. FBI agents, U.S. Marshals, and Tinley Park Police and Cook County Sheriff's officers descended on a house in the 6600 block of 176th Street where Conley's mother, Sandy, lived.

Ronald Bailey, the owner of the house, said he had been renting out the first floor to Sandy Conley for eight years. Bailey, who also owns Bailey's bar on Oak Park Avenue, was told by his upstairs tenants, who were there at the time, that Kenneth Conley came to the house, but his mother turned him away.

Nearby streets were blocked off a little before 11 a.m., and SWAT teams searched the house, but no one was found. Unfortunately, the convicts had a 40-minute head start, said Tinley Park Police Chief Steve Neubauer at Tuesday night's Village Board meeting.

A Cook County Sheriff's K-9 unit combed the area for clue, heading northbound on 67th Avenue to the Oak Park Avenue Metra station.

The Schools

Tinley Park schools were alerted by police of the situation and put in "soft lockdown," said Chief Neubauer.

A soft lockdown is when a school "hardens its perimeter," but classes still go on, Neubauer said. Doors are monitored by staff members, and there is a police presence on campus.

Law enforcement assured Community Consolidated School District 146 administrators that no immediate threat is apparent to the schools or administration building, and they remain in contact with the district, said D146 Community Relations Manager Linda Zec.

"Our administration is on top of the situation and in contact with our local police authority for updates," Zec wrote in an email. "At this point there seems to be no need to cause panic and that we are taking all necessary precautions to keep our students and staff safe."

All three Consolidated High School District 230 schools and Tinley Park High School also were on a soft lockdown.

"We're just trying to take every safety measure that we can," said Lori DeVos, community relations coordinator for Bremen High School District 228.

St. George School, which is directly across the street from the house police surrounded, was put on full lockdown, and SWAT team members stayed in the school until authorities left the scene.

What's Next?

The Village of Tinley Park sent out an alert a little bit after 4 p.m., saying authorities no longer believed Banks and Conley were in the village.

The FBI, however, is continuing its manhunt, keeping the scope of its search to the entire Chicago area, Botche said.

"It's expanded only because we're now following up on other leads and trying to track down other avenues, and the fact is is that it's taken us all over the Chicago area," he said.

Agents aren't sure if the convicts are still together or if they've separated, Botche said. He added that they could be hiding out somewhere or could have joined up with associates.

While the FBI has no information that the men are armed, Botche said they could have come across weapons and should still be considered dangerous.

Anyone with information on the two men should contact the FBI Chicago office at 312-421-6700 or other local law enforcement.

Other Stories About the Search for the Escaped Convicts:

  • Landlord: Mother Turned Away Escaped Convict at Front Door
  • Scenes From a Manhunt (Photo Gallery)
  • Fugitive Search Disrupts Funeral at Nearby Church
  • Orland Park Police Investigating False Bank Robbery Report


Two Ways to Stay Connected to Tinley Park Patch:

Joe Ski December 20, 2012 at 05:18 PM
Anyone feel thier might be a connection between the escape and the fire in Oak Forest, where the woman was strangled and the man's thorat was slashed?
Mike Fangman December 20, 2012 at 05:22 PM
There is none.


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