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Escaped Bank Robbers Made Off in a Cab, But Trail is 'Cold,' FBI Says

By DNAinfo Staff on December 20, 2012 11:10am  | Updated on December 20, 2012 1:13pm

 Joseph Banks, 38, and Kenneth Conley, 38, escaped Tuesday from the Metropolitan Correctional Center in the Loop.
Joseph Banks, 38, and Kenneth Conley, 38, escaped Tuesday from the Metropolitan Correctional Center in the Loop.
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CHICAGO — The crafty crooks who made their daring escape from a Loop federal jail Tuesday were captured on surveillance footage taking off in a taxi nearby, but the bandits' trail "is somewhat cold," the FBI said.  

Men matching the descriptions of Joseph "Jose" Banks, 37, the "Second-Hand Bandit" and Kenneth Conley, 38 — who escaped from the Metropolitan Correctional Center by fashioning a rope out of bed sheets and scaling 15 stories down the high-rise — were seen catching a cab at South Michigan Avenue and East Congress Parkway at 2:40 a.m. Tuesday, FBI spokeswoman Joan Hyde said.

From there, they headed south on Michigan Avenue and eventually ended up in the suburb of Tinley Park, where they were last seen at a residence about 7 a.m. Tuesday, Hyde said.

Police in the town, where one of the men lived, said that there had been a sighting of the men at the Oak Park Avenue Station, but Hyde said she wasn't aware of that.

Though the massive manhunt, which includes the FBI, U.S. Marshals Service and local law enforcement, has focused on Chicago, the FBI also is pursuing leads outside the state, Hyde said.

So far, all have turned up empty.

"The trail is somewhat cold," Hyde said, "But we're continuing the search and pursuing leads as they come in."

The FBI is offering a $50,000 reward for information that leads to the suspects' capture.

The inmates made their stunning disappearance after 10 p.m. Monday night from the jail at 71 W. Van Buren St., according to a federal criminal complaint filed Tuesday.

According to the court papers, Banks and Conley — who shared a cell at MCC — were present for a head count at 10 p.m. Monday night. Early the next morning, employees at the facility noticed what appeared to be rope hanging from the side of the building.

Then officers discovered Banks and Conley were gone.

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

A law enforcement source said the rope was crafted from bedsheets, which Banks and Conley used to help break out of the jail.

Banks, known as the "Second-Hand Bandit" because of the old clothes he wore during his crimes, was convicted last week of two bank robberies and two attempted holdups. Banks managed to steal nearly $600,000, much of which is still missing, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Despite his makeshift getups, Banks was an aspiring clothing designer who represented himself during his trial last week 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, the Chicago Tribune reported. 

Conley took $4,000 from a MB Financial Bank at 2345 W. 184th St. in Homewood on May 13, 2011, escaped, and was apprehended later by police for pointing a gun at someone in Chicago Heights, the Tribune reported.

After denying the bank robbery, he fled to California, where he was arrested in September 2011, and later convicted, the Tribune reported. He lived in Tinley Park and worked at a strip club, the paper said.

Both men were awaiting sentencing in the Loop jail.

When aked how the robbers could have managed the intricate escape, or how security might be beefed up since the incident, the Federal Bureau of Prisons offered few clues.

"We cannot comment on the specifics of what transpired [or] what precautions we will undertake as a result, because there's an investigation going on,"  Ed Ross, spokesman for the Federal Bureau of Prisons, said.

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

The escapees are considered armed and dangerous. Anyone with information about them is asked to call local police or the Chicago FBI office at (312) 421-6700.