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FBI: Bank Robbers Used Fake Metal Bars in Escape from Loop Jail

By Quinn Ford | December 19, 2012 12:58pm | Updated on December 19, 2012 8:06pm
 Joseph Banks and Kenneth Conley escaped Tuesday from the Metropolitan Correctional Center in the Loop.
Joseph Banks and Kenneth Conley escaped Tuesday from the Metropolitan Correctional Center in the Loop.
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CHICAGO — It's "Shawshank Redemption" — Chicago style.

The bank robbers, who broke out of a federal jail in the Loop by shimmying 15 stories down the side of the building, employed a bag of tricks in their brazen escape — including using fake metal bars, authorities said.

The escape details came as the manhunt continued Wednesday for the two crafty crooks, Joseph "Jose" Banks, 37 — known as the the Second-Hand Bandit because of the old clothes he wore during his crimes — and Kenneth Conley, 38, who vanished from the Metropolitan Correctional Center.

The FBI is offering a $50,000 reward for information that leads to the capture of the two, said FBI spokeswoman Joan Hyde.

"We're hoping the $50,000 reward will persuade someone who would otherwise be reluctant to come forward," she said.

The inmates disappeared sometime after 10 p.m. Monday night from the jail at 71 W. Van Buren St., according to a federal criminal complaint filed late Tuesday.

According to the complaint, Banks and Conley — who shared a cell — were present for a head count at 10 p.m. Monday night. At 7 a.m. Tuesday, employees at the facility noticed what appeared to be a rope hanging down the side of the building.

After conducting another head count, officers found Banks and Conley's cell empty. Both beds contained clothing and sheets that "appeared to be in the shape of a body."

The window in the cell was broken, and metal bars from the window were found in one of the mattresses. Fake metal bars were also found in the cell, according to the complaint.

A makeshift rope was found hanging from the window. A law enforcement source said the rope was crafted from bedsheets, which Banks and Conley used to scale down the building.

Banks and Conley were last seen Tuesday morning at the Oak Park Avenue Train Station in Tinley Park. They are believed to be traveling together and are considered armed and dangerous, the FBI said.

The investigation has centered around Chicago, though a few leads have caused the FBI to look out of state as well, Hyde said.

Banks, who was an aspiring clothing designer, acted as his own lawyer during his bank robbery trial Thursday and had to be restrained during the proceedings.

At one point in the trial, he said that he felt like "Hannibal Lecter" because he was strapped to a chair by court officers, the Chicago Tribune reported.  He argued that he was above federal law because he was not a U.S. citizen but a  "Moorish national," the report said.

Conley took $4,000 in a robbery of MB Financial Bank in Walt's Food Center in Homewood on May 13, 2011, and escaped to California, where he was arrested in September 2011. He subsequently pleaded guilty to the robbery, according to reports.

Both men were awaiting sentencing.

Banks was described by officials as 5-foot-8 and weighing 160 pounds, while Conley is 6 feet tall and weighs 185 pounds.

The FBI is urging anyone who has information to contact local law enforcement or the FBI Chicago Office at (312) 421-6700.