Robbery suspects may be linked to more holdups

February 23, 2009 3:21:13 PM PST
A trio of suspected bank robbers appeared in court Monday in connection with a holdup last Friday in north suburban Evanston. Federal agents say their method of robbery is very similar to two other hold ups that happened one week ago. In all the cases the masked gunmen burst into the bank and announced a takeover.

Investigators believe the trio is responsible for all the robberies. Agents staking out a home on Chicago's South Side arrested the men Friday evening.

They are called "take-over robberies." Holdup men enter a bank with their guns drawn. There are no notes quietly passed to a teller, only orders shouted out--"Everybody on the floor heads down." It is terrifying for those who go through it.

It happened twice last Monday, first at the suburban Bank and Trust in Oak Lawn, then later in the afternoon at a Chase Bank branch in Skokie. No one was hurt.

Bank surveillance photos from the two holdups made it appear the same men were responsible for both. For the most part, their faces were covered, but there were other identifiers.

"Their clothing was distinct. Some of the characteristics of the robbers were unique. By getting this case in the public eye, we were able to get a tip that panned out," said Ross Rice, FBI.

The tipster is identified in the federal complaint as a former FBI informant who said the three robbers were members of a street gang and that they might be found in the 7300-block of South May. Friday morning, two agents went to that neighborhood to run surveillance.

"They spotted the vehicle the tipster identified that these people drove, and then the vehicle left the area. They did not have the resources to conduct physical surveillance. They didn't know where they were going, and they certainly didn't know they were going to rob another bank," said Rice.

Later Friday afternoon, three men robbed the Fifth-Third Bank in Evanston, another takeover robbery. Descriptions matched last week's holdups.

The FBI was waiting on May when the men returned.

They tried to drive away but ran into the back of Mary Armour's parked pick-up. Mary was inside watching TV.

"They had to catch them somewhere," Armour said.

The three men, identified as 38-year-old Kim Evans, 27-year-old Corley Smith and 20-year-old Dezmond Swanson, were all taken into custody without incident. They all appeared in federal court Monday afternoon. They are charged with the Evanston bank stick-up.

Charges have not yet been filed in last week's robberies, and the FBI's work is not done. There were at least five men involved in the Skokie armed robbery.

"Obviously, there are two more people at large. There could be more than that. We're not sure," Rice said.

It is unknown if the three men have any criminal histories. They remain locked up in the Metropolitan Correctional Center.

There were a record 284 bank robberies in Chicago, Cook, DuPage, Lake, Will, and McHenry counties in 2006. There have been 40 so far this year.