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Philanthropist Convicted of Bank Robbery as a Teen Pardoned by Gov. Quinn

By Heather Cherone | January 19, 2015 5:28am
 Developer Lionel Rabb, who founded the Ed Paschke Art Center in Jefferson Park, was pardoned by Gov. Quinn.
Developer Lionel Rabb, who founded the Ed Paschke Art Center in Jefferson Park, was pardoned by Gov. Quinn.
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JEFFERSON PARK — A Jefferson Park man convicted of robbing a bank as a teenager — and who has since become one of the Far Northwest Side's most prominent philanthropists — was pardoned last week by former Gov. Pat Quinn.

Lionel Rabb, who founded the Ed Paschke Art Center in Jefferson Park and is the president of the National Veterans Art Museum's board of directors, said he was humbled and "very, very surprised" by the news of his pardon, which came as Quinn left office on Jan. 12.

"I didn't have any idea it was coming," said Rabb, who applied for the pardon in 2010 or 2011. "I don't know the governor. If I see him, I'd probably thank him."

Heather Cherone discusses how Rabb went from "computer wiz" to convicted bank robber:

Rabb, 38, is the founder of Omicron Technologies Inc., a  firm that has worked for city agencies as well as some of the largest companies in America, including 3M, ExxonMobil and Coca-Cola.

A self-taught computer whiz, Rabb, as a high school sophomore, invented a software system Chicago Public Schools now uses to identify and track students with digital identification cards.

Rabb spent three years in prison after pleading guilty to robbing a Norwood Park bank when he was 17 and a junior in high school.

"It is nice to have closure on this," said Rabb, who has two young daughters.

Quinn also expunged Rabb's record.

A statement from Quinn's office said each person granted clemency had undergone a recent criminal background check.

Quinn told the Tribune that many of the people he pardoned in his last days in office made one mistake in their youth that should not force them to suffer for the rest of their lives.

A spokesman for the former governor could not be reached Friday.

Rabb's only campaign contribution to Quinn, in October 2009, was for $1,500, according to state records.

Rabb used a semi-automatic handgun to rob the TCF Bank in the 6100 block of Northwest Highway on Jan. 14, 1994, according to court records. Two of his friends — also high school students — were also convicted in connection with the crime, which netted about $20,000.

No one was injured during the robbery.

Had he not been arrested, Rabb would have likely ended up dead, he told DNAinfo Chicago a year ago.

"It was a hidden opportunity to take a pause,” Rabb said of his conviction. "It was a clean break from a world that was toxic.”

Rabb, who founded the Jefferson Park Memorial Park Advisory Council in 2013 in an effort to renovate the park, said he found out he had been granted a pardon from officials with the Cabrini Green Legal Aid, which provides free legal services to low-income residents of Chicago. Rabb is a member of the group's advisory board.

"I thought it was a long shot at best," Rabb said.

In 2001, Rabb founded the Marilyn G. Rabb Foundation, now known as MGR Youth Empowerment, in honor of his stepmother, who died of cancer, and then the Rabb Family Foundation.

Rabb is also the president of the board of directors for the Jefferson Park Chamber of Commerce.

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