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updated: 1/4/2013 8:21 PM

Escaped bank robber captured despite disguise

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  • Kenneth Conley

      Kenneth Conley

  • Joseph "Jose" Banks

      Joseph "Jose" Banks

  • A harness and the end of a rope dangle from a window on the back side of the Metropolitan Correctional Center on Dec. 18. Two convicted bank robbers used a knotted rope made of bed sheets to escape from the federal prison window high above downtown Chicago.

      A harness and the end of a rope dangle from a window on the back side of the Metropolitan Correctional Center on Dec. 18. Two convicted bank robbers used a knotted rope made of bed sheets to escape from the federal prison window high above downtown Chicago.
    Associated Press

  • Kenneth Conley and Joseph "Jose" Banks apparently smashed a hole in a wall at the bottom of a narrow cell window at the Metropolitan Correctional Center and squeezed through before scaling down about 20 stories last month in Chicago.

      Kenneth Conley and Joseph "Jose" Banks apparently smashed a hole in a wall at the bottom of a narrow cell window at the Metropolitan Correctional Center and squeezed through before scaling down about 20 stories last month in Chicago.
    Associated Press

 
Associated Press

Weeks after a pair of bank robbers made a daring escape from a downtown Chicago high-rise jail, police said Friday they captured the last of the two men but didn't notice him at first because he was disguised as an old man.

Kenneth Conley was arrested in South suburban Palos Hills after a short foot chase. Palos Hills Deputy Chief James Boie said Conley was dressed like an old man, wearing a beret and glasses, and was walking with a limp when officers approached him.

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He said Conley pushed one of the officers and led them on a chase. He said the fleeing man tried to break into an apartment to avoid being captured but was caught and had a BB gun in his possession.

Conley, 38, fled the Metropolitan Correctional Center last month with Joseph "Jose" Banks, apparently by smashing a hole in a wall at the bottom of a narrow cell window and squeezing through before scaling down about 20 stories using a knotted rope made out of bed sheets.

Banks, 37, was arrested two days later at a home on Chicago's North Side, about five miles away from the jail. Conley managed to elude authorities for 17 days but was still in the area when he got caught -- about 18 miles southwest of the federal facility they had fled.

The apartment complex where Conley was nabbed is across the street from the police department.

Boie said officers checking on a report of someone sleeping in the basement of a building saw Conley, but he was disguised.

"One officer outside saw a guy who looked like an old man," the deputy chief said. "He had a beret. He was walking with a limp and he had glasses on."

The officers approached Conley to verify his identity and Conley claimed he "was just visiting and didn't have any identification," Boie said.

At that point, Conley pushed one of the officers and there was a small struggle before Conley ran off and tried to break into an apartment, Boie said. Two officers chased after him and caught him about a block and a half away.

Both Conley and the officer who was shoved were taken to a hospital. Their injuries weren't serious.

A man who answered the phone at a number listed for Conley's brother, Nicholas Conley, in Southwest suburban Orland Hills asked that the family be left alone. A message left for Conley's mother was not immediately returned.

On the morning of the escape, it took jail officials hours to notice Conley and Banks were gone. Surveillance video from a nearby street showed the two hopping into a cab shortly before 3 a.m. on Dec. 18. They had changed out of their orange jail-issued jumpsuits.

When the facility did discover the two men were gone around 7 a.m., what was found revealed a meticulously planned escape, including clothing and sheets shaped to resemble a body under blankets on beds, bars inside a mattress and even fake bars in the cells.

A massive manhunt involving state, federal and local law enforcement agencies was launched, as SWAT teams stormed into the home of a relative of Conley only to learn the two escapees had been there and left. The authorities searched other area homes and businesses -- even a strip club where Conley once worked.

Law enforcement officials left a host of questions unanswered, including how the men could collect about 200 feet of bed sheets and what they might have used to break through the wall of the federal facility.

Conley pleaded guilty last October to robbing a Homewood Bank last year of nearly $4,000. He wore a coat and tie during the robbery and had a gun stuffed in his waistband.

Banks, known as the Second-Hand Bandit because he wore used clothes during his heists, had been convicted of robbing two banks and attempting to rob two others. Authorities say he stole almost $600,000, and most of that is still missing.

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