Urbana man to be returned to Illinois to face bank robbery charges

URBANA — An Urbana man believed involved in several bank robberies in the Midwest is scheduled to be returned to Illinois soon.

On Jan. 11, Willie B. Franklin, 37, was criminally charged by federal prosecutors with the Dec. 20 robbery of the Homestar Bank in Manteno.

An affidavit by an FBI agent in support of the charge said that in late December a flier about bank robberies in Wentzville, Mo., Kankakee and Manteno was circulated to law enforcement. It contained information about the robber's description and that of a bright yellow Chevrolet Cavalier that was seen in at least two of the robberies.

On Jan. 2, Urbana police Sgt. Adam Chacon spotted a yellow Chevrolet Cavalier on West Beech Street near Franklin's home and arrested Franklin for driving while suspended. He was released after posting bond and his booking photo was disseminated to other police departments.

The teller at the Manteno bank identified Franklin from a photo lineup as the man who robbed her on Dec. 20. Police also compared Facebook pictures of Franklin with the bank photos and found him to be wearing the same sunglasses as worn in the Manteno holdup.

On Jan. 3, Franklin contacted Urbana police to see about getting his car and personal belongings back and said he was in Greenup at the time. The next day, police went to the motel where he said he was but there was no record of him having been there.

On Jan. 5, there was another bank robbery in Mount Vernon that police believe was done by Franklin.

A search warrant for his phone led police to Franklin in Florida. He was arrested in Tampa on Jan. 9.

In an interview with FBI agents, he admitted committing 12 bank robberies in Kankakee, Peoria, Manteno, Morton, Mount Vernon and Quincy in Illinois; Lafayette and Indianapolis in Indiana; Wentzville, Mo., and Iowa City, Iowa.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason Bohm said no specific date has been set for Franklin's return to the Central District of Illinois, where the bank robbery charge was filed.

A hearing was held Feb. 8 ordering his return to Illinois.

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