Urbana man pleads innocent to bank robbery charges

Urbana man pleads innocent to bank robbery charges

URBANA — Federal authorities charged an Urbana man Monday in connection with several bank robberies in the Midwest.

Willie B. Franklin, 37, pleaded innocent Monday to four counts of bank robbery.

U.S. Magistrate Judge David G. Bernthal set Franklin's next court appearance for May 18.

Franklin was arrested in January in connection 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., and 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 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 committed by Franklin.

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

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.

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