Federal Arrest Warrants Issued for Chicago Jail Escapees

Cellmates at the Metropolitan Correctional Center were last seen during a headcount at 10 p.m. Monday

Federal arrest warrants were issued Tuesday evening for a pair of convicted bank robbers who escaped from the Metropolitan Correctional Center earlier in the day.

Central District Police Sgt. Michael Lazzaro said the men likely escaped the facility, at 71 W. Van Buren St., between 5 a.m. and 7:45 a.m.

The FBI identified the men as 37-year-old Jose Banks and 38-year-old Kenneth Conley, believed to be traveling together and reportedly last seen Tuesday morning in the Tinley Park area. Police surrounded a home in Tinley Park just before noon looking for the men.

Banks, known as the "Second Hand Bandit" was convicted last week of stealing more than $600,000 during armed robberies. His cellmate, Conley, was convicted of stealing $4,000 last year from a bank in Homewood.

Lazzaro said the men escaped out a window using what one officer described as a rope made out of fabric scraps. The rope was seen still hanging down the side of the building Tuesday (photo below) before being pulled up just before noon.

According to the complaint affidavit, Banks and Conley were cellmates and were present during a physical head count at 10 p.m. Monday.

Following their escape, investigators said they found metal window bars tucked inside the inmates' mattresses, fake metal bars inside the cell and clothing in the shape of a body under the bed's blankets.

FBI officials said Banks and Conley should be considered armed and dangerous. Chicago police and U.S. Marshals searched several locations in the Loop, including the Greyhound bus station, but came up empty.

"I was in the washroom and the cops just came in, and you know, it kind of shocked me a little bit," witness Damien Wilson said.

Anyone who sees Banks and Conley is asked to call the Chicago office of the FBI at 312-421-6700.

The Metropolitan Correctional Center, a federal detention center in Chicago's Loop operated by the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, has been the site of escape attempts before. The brother of "Dark Knight" director Christopher Nolan pleaded guilty in 2010 for trying to escape the jail using a rope made of bed sheets.

Matthew Nolan planned to rappel down the side of the building using a 31-foot rope of bed sheets hidden in a mattress.

In 1985, two men escaped by shimmying down a 75-foot extension cord they threw out the window.

Escape carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, authorities explained in a statement.  

Look closely to see the rope to inmates used to escape the MCC
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