Suspected 'secondhand bandit' charged with bank robberies

September 4, 2008 4:44:36 PM PDT
The man suspected in at least a dozen bank robberies in the Chicago area has been arrested by the FBI. He is known as "the secondhand bandit" because of his wardrobe of disguises. Jose Banks was arrested Wednesday night in north suburban Lincolnwood without incident. He appeared in federal court briefly Thursday morning where he was ordered held without bond.

Banks is charged with one count of attempted robbery in an incident that happened last week, but investigators say he faces a long list of charges for armed bank robberies that go back four years.

He has worn many disguises, his used clothing earning him the nickname "the secondhand bandit," but now investigators say they know the true identity of the man they say committed nearly two dozen bank robberies in Chicago and have taken him into custody. He is 33-year-old Joseph Jose Banks.

"He is the most prolific bank robber in terms of number that we've had in Chicago probably in the history of this office," said Ross Rice, FBI spokesperson.

Banks is believed to have committed about 20 bank robberies dating back to December 2004. One of those cases investigators say Banks was responsible for was the hold up at First Commercial Bank in August of last year. The incident led to a four-hour standoff where the SWAT team had to lead hostages to safety. Investigators say Banks escaped, but he was empty-handed.

August of this year, authorities say, Banks struck again in Rogers Park. He tried to rob a Chase Bank.

"We were fortunate in that several of the witnesses in that robbery caught a good look at the robber without a mask, without a task, and they were able to identify him in photo lineups," Rice said.

According to investigators, Banks came away with money in only a few of the bank robberies, but that amount totaled $500,000.

Authorities say, in some of the cases, Banks reportedly had an accomplice. But at this point they say everything is still under investigation and won't say if and when other people may be charged.


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