Eccentric escapee mastermind may be hard to find
Investigators won’t admit it, but finding escaped bank robber, Joseph Banks, may be a difficult task. Federal agents say he’s the mastermind behind a string of robberies and holdups – as many as 21 different incidents, according to the FBI. And his intellect is combined with an eccentric personality, as evidenced by his strange behavior in court.
It was a premonition of things to come. Standing before federal judge Rebecca Pallmeyer last week, Joseph “Jose” Banks yelled, “you’ll hear from me!” Just a week later, Banks makes good on the boast with an astonishing prison escape from a 15th story window, capturing national and international attention. And it’s focused a spotlight on the 37-year-old fugitive.
In court documents, the FBI violent crimes task force reveals that Banks was the suspected mastermind behind 21 bank robberies and holdups. An informant told investigators Banks “recruited him to participate in the robberies and organized approximately ten take-over bank robberies on the North side of Chicago between December 2004 and August 2005.”
Witnesses say during the robberies, Banks “would often speak in a fake accent, pretending to sound like a foreigner when he committed the bank robberies.”
And federal agents further reveal Banks and his crew appeared to have an extensive understanding of how bank vaults work, knowing inside details like how many bank employees were needed to open or access money in the vault.
Then there’s the astonishing escape.
“It takes an awful lot of planning and determination to pull that off,” says Scott Fawell. As a federal prisoner during his political corruption trial, Fawell spent about eight months in the Metropolitan Correctional Center. And he’s familiar with the layout of the holding cells, with tall narrow plexiglass windows – a maximum of five inches wide – with reinforced cinder block. And somehow, the escapees managing to push two cinder blocks for a tight squeeze getaway. “I can’t imagine how much hammering and chiseling you’d have to do to loosen those blocks up, “ Fawell says. But he adds that there’s a lot of noise in the common areas at the MCC. you’d still need a lot of luck, he says. But it’s plausible that the noise could drown out the hammering inside.