U.S. Attorney's Office
Northern District of Illinois
(312) 353-5300
October 22, 2014

MCC Escapee Joseph Banks Sentenced to 36 Years in Federal Prison for Armed Bank Robberies

CHICAGO—A Chicago man who escaped from the Metropolitan Correctional Center in December 2012, just five days after he was convicted of armed robbery of two banks and attempting to rob two others in 2007 and 2008, was sentenced today to 36 years in federal prison. Approximately $547,000 stolen in the two robberies remains missing.

JOSEPH BANKS, also known as “Jose Banks,” 39, “intimidated and terrified” employees and bystanders at each of the four banks and those victims’ fears were renewed when Banks escaped and remained at large for three days before he was recaptured, Assistant U.S. Attorney Renato Mariotti argued in seeking a lengthy sentence.

“The defense claims [Banks’] bank robberies were common, but they inflicted an uncommon level of terror, by his design,” Mr. Mariotti said.

Rejecting Banks’ claims that he is “humble” and “anti-gun,” U.S. District Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer called Banks “narcissistic,” adding that he was and remains “a threat and a menace” to society. Judge Pallmeyer further rejected Banks’ so-called “sovereign citizen” defense, which he maintained at his trial in December 2012 and which he admitted was an act.

Banks was also ordered to pay $589,000 restitution. He has been in federal custody for six years and will receive credit for time served. He must serve 85 percent of his sentence and there is no parole in the federal prison system.

With nearly two dozen prior convictions, Banks was found guilty at a trial in December 2012 of attempting to rob the First Commercial Bank, 6945 North Clark St., on Aug. 30, 2007, and Chase Bank, 5134 North Clark St., on Aug. 26, 2008. He was arrested a week later on Sept. 3, 2008.

On Dec. 28, 2007, Banks was wearing a fake beard, a wig, sunglasses, gloves, a suit, and an overcoat when he entered the Citibank branch located 3128 North Ashland Ave. Armed with a gun, he leaped the counter, pushed bank employees to the ground, and forced them to open the vault for him. An employee suffered a panic attack and clutched his chest, hyperventilated, turned pale, and fell to the floor, thinking all the while that he was having a heart attack and would die. Banks fled the bank with approximately $317,000, which was never recovered.

On July 19, 2008, wearing a black stocking mask that obscured his face, Banks robbed a different Citibank branch located at 3753 North Clark St. Again, Banks brandished a gun and forced his way into the vault before fleeing with approximately $272,000. Of that, approximately $42,000 was recovered from a safe deposit box while the remaining $230,000 has never been found. Evidence at Banks’ trial showed that he spent some of the money on several vehicles.

Banks and his cellmate, Kenneth Conley, another convicted bank robber, escaped through the wall of their cell at the MCC and repelled down the exterior of the high-rise federal detention facility. Conley was captured two weeks later and is serving a sentence of 20 years for bank robbery, consecutive to 41 months for the escape.

The sentence was announced today by Zachary T. Fardon, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, and Robert J. Holley, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Also representing the government were Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sheri Mecklenburg and Peter Salib.

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