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Bank robber who escaped jail by rappelling 20 stories is recaptured

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The escape of the two bank robbers from Chicago's Metropolitan Correctional Center left some people scratching their heads. The pair rappelled about 20 stories on a rope made of bed sheets

CHICAGO -- One of two bank robbers who escaped a high-rise federal jail Tuesday by scaling down some 20 stories on a rope made from bed sheets has been arrested after an FBI manhunt, the agency said early Friday.

FBI spokeswoman Joan Hyde said Joseph "Jose" Banks was captured without incident in Chicago. Agents from the Chicago FBI's Violent Crimes Task Force, along with officers from the Chicago Police Department, arrested Banks about 11:30 p.m. Thursday, Hyde said in a news release.

The search continued for Kenneth Conley, who fled the jail with Banks.

Banks, 37, and Conley, 38, somehow broke a large hole into the bottom of a 6-inch-wide window of the Metropolitan Correctional Center, dropped out their makeshift rope and climbed down about 20 floors to the ground.

The escape went unnoticed for hours, with surveillance video from a nearby street showing the two hop into a cab shortly before 3 a.m. Tuesday. 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.

Bank robbers use rope made of cloth scraps to escape jail

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.

'Second-Hand Bandit'
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.

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

During trial, he had to be restrained because he threatened to walk out of the courtroom. He acted as his own attorney and verbally sparred with the prosecutor, at times arguing that U.S. law didn't apply to him because he was a sovereign citizen of a group that was above state and federal law.

Prisoner escapes, found in hospital vent less than an hour later


Conley pleaded guilty last October to robbing a Homewood Bank last year of nearly $4,000. Conley, who worked at the time at a suburban strip club, wore a coat and tie when he robbed the bank and had a gun stuffed in his waistband.

The Metropolitan Correctional Center, located in Chicago's Loop, has been the site of escape attempts before. 

Fugitive who escaped from prison more than 31 years ago finally caught

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 that he had hidden in a mattress, NBCChicago.com reported, adding that 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 said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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