Oak Lawn bank robbery suspect appears in court

June 5, 2012 (CHICAGO)

Authorities say Charles Estell, 37, entered a branch of the Bank of America at a strip mall in Oak Lawn Saturday.

Estell's appearance before a federal judge lasted only a few minutes, long enough for him to say that he will not fight being detained and that he will waive his right to a preliminary hearing.

Investigators say Estell dropped through the ceiling of the bank just as it was closing at 2 p.m., walked into the vault where two employees were counting money, brandished a gun and tied up the workers and ran off with $100,000.

Oak Lawn police say their quick response kept Estell trapped in the building, but they wanted to proceed with caution.

"We knew from photos that we got from surveillance inside of the bank that he had a weapon with an extended magazine on it," said Bill Villanova, Oak Lawn police chief.

Estell was found hiding in the ceiling of an office next to the bank. Police used pepper spray to try to get him out, but he was wedged in an air duct. After several hours, he was finally cut loose by officers.

"We took the ceiling down bit by bit and slowly but surely worked through the building until he was located hiding in a corner between a wall and all the air conditioning ducts," said Villanueva.

Estell has a history of crime. In 2007, he was charged with carjacking nd sentenced to more than five years in prison. His latest charge comes as bank robberies in the Chicago area are up this year, according to the FBI.

"I've heard people say, well the economy causes bank robberies to go up," said Robert Grant, FBI Special Agent In Charge, Chicago. "I don't think there's any evidence to support that, but I can't speak to it directly as to why."

Estell is charged with bank robbery, which is a federal crime. If convicted of that charge, he faces up to 20 years in prison.

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