Fugitive hid in plain sight for 14 years

May 14, 2008 8:53:07 PM PDT
The fugitive who eluded federal agents in Chicago for 14 years was apparently hiding in plain sight.How do you duck the FBI? Carmine Jannece did so since the early 1990s by staying close to home.

Jannece was part of the biggest bank robbery in Michigan history, right across the lake in Saugatuck, a favorite vacation retreat for many Chicagoans.

Jannece is now 80 years old, on the lam since he was in his 60s, might still be living off the proceeds of one very lucrative bank robbery.

In July 1991. a movie, " Point Break," was playing at Chicago-area theatres about a gang of robbers who stick up banks while wearing rubber masks of ex-U.S. presidents.

Late that summer, inspired by the film, federal agents say a four-man Outfit burglary crew from Chicago arrived in the quaint town of Saugatuck. The mob holdup men were led by veteran Chicago burglar Bobby "The Beak" Siegel, a cousin of the infamous founder of Las Vegas' Bugsy Siegel.

Saugatuck businessman Larry Phillips was driving by the bank.

"I went around the one corner and I met a car, and there were three guys in it and they all had face masks on," he said.

The crime syndicate crew had come to hit the only bank in town and pulled it off by diverting the city's only squad car with a 911 call about a phony car accident across town.

One woman was working as a bank teller that day.

"Three men came dashing through the front door and pushed me onto the floor, and the other two men grabbed the other bank officer and took him into the vault," said Patricia Diepenhorst, teller.

They ran out with nearly $360,000 in cash with Carmine Jannece driving the getaway car back to Chicago. In 1994, Jannece, Bobby "The Beak" Siegel and their two cohorts were indicted for that robbery and a string of stickups in Florida.

All but Jannece were arrested and convicted.

Jannece became a fugitive, wanted by the FBI here in Chicago; in Michigan and in Florida.

He managed to throw FBI agents off his trail by changing him name from Jannece to Senese and, according to family members, for the last 14 years, lived right out in the open on the Northwest Side, ironically between two banks above a strip mall with his alias right there on the mailbox with bills arriving every day for him and his car parked out back, registered in the slightly altered name.

Jannece outlasted the fugitive run of his boss, Joey "The Clown" Lombardo, who managed only nine months before the FBI found him. Jannece's son says his father told him he was exposed when he tried to renew his driver's license.

"I've been wondering about that for years and years, if they'd ever find him," said Diepenhorst.

Surprisingly, the FBI made no announcement of the February arrest. At first, a spokesman denied knowing anything about Jannece. When pressed, they declined to discuss with the I-Team why it took 14 years to bring him in.

Jannece last month pleaded guilty to having stolen a car in Holland, Michigan to use as the getaway car, acting as a lookout and agreed to cooperate with the government. He is free on bond.

Jannece's lawyer told the I-Team he was sorry but had no comment. Neither did the U.S. Attorney.

The aging bank robber is scheduled to be sentenced in July. He could help his situation if he told authorities the whereabouts of stolen bank funds or jewelry or testified against mob bosses who are expected to face indictment later this year in the second leg of the operation family secrets trial.

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