Urbana man faces federal sentencing in robberies

URBANA — An Urbana man who admitted he robbed two businesses and a credit union in Champaign last year faces a lengthy sentence in the federal penitentiary.

Prentice A. Taylor, 57, whose last known address was in the 900 block of North Gregory Street, pleaded guilty last week before U.S. District Court Judge Michael McCuskey in Urbana to robbery, using a firearm during a violent crime, and bank robbery.

McCuskey set sentencing for Dec. 10.

Taylor was also convicted in Champaign County Circuit Court in 2002 for the armed robbery of an Urbana gas station in December 2000. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison for that.

He and two other men, Ronald Wilkerson and William Terry Jackson, were arrested in May 2012 in connection with a spate of armed robberies in Champaign.

Wilkerson, 44, of Champaign was convicted in state court in May of the May 8, 2012, armed robbery of the Central Illinois Credit Union, 2106 W. John St., C, and the May 21, 2012, armed robbery of the Marine Bank, 1001 S. Neil St., C. He is serving a 120-year prison sentence in the Illinois Department of Corrections.

Taylor and Jackson, 35, of Urbana, initially charged in state court, had their cases transferred to federal court last fall.

Jackson's case remains unresolved. He's been implicated in one business and two bank holdups.

According to documents filed in Taylor's federal court case, he pleaded guilty in connection with the March 24, 2012, armed robbery of the McDonald's, 501 N. Mattis Ave., C; the April 16, 2012, armed robbery of the Mobil Super Pantry, 1511 N. Prospect Ave., C; and the May 8, 2012, armed robbery of the Central Illinois Credit Union, 2106 W. John St., C.

— In the McDonald's holdup on March 24, 2012, there were four employees in the restaurant at closing time when a man wearing a hooded sweatshirt and jeans ordered one of them at gunpoint to open a combination safe in the office. The robber threatened to shoot the employee in the head if he stalled.

Business videotapes showed that the robber had been hiding in the bathroom until the doors were locked at 10 p.m. It also showed that there were two men outside the building at 10:06 p.m.

Police learned that one of the four employees, a woman, knew Taylor because he dated her friend. Taylor had previously asked the woman several questions about the business and she knew he was planning to rob it but said she didn't know it was going to happen that night. The woman said she recognized Taylor as he robbed the business but acted as if she did not.

— In the Mobil Super Pantry holdup on April 16, 2012, an employee was robbed at gunpoint of a bank deposit bag with more than $9,000 as she was about to get in her car at 10 a.m.

Jackson admitted he was the one who robbed that woman but said he then gave the gun to Taylor, who was talking on a phone to Wilkerson, who had arranged the robbery with the help of a niece who worked there.

— Champaign police went to the Central Illinois Credit Union about 10:25 a.m. on May 8, 2012, after two men wearing ball caps and sunglasses came in. One went right to a counter, shoved a customer, held the gun near her head, then jumped behind the counter. The other went to a male employee's office and made him come out and get on the floor. The robbers made off with $19,556.

Six days later, a woman called police to say that she recognized Jackson from the still photos police had disseminated.

When he was arrested, Jackson said a friend introduced him to Taylor and that Taylor had loaned him $5,000 to buy cannabis, which he planned to sell. When Jackson didn't have the money to repay Taylor, Jackson said Taylor threatened him with a gun and ordered him to be ready for Jackson to pick him up one morning.

Jackson said Taylor and Wilkerson arrived on May 8 and told him he was going to rob the credit union with Taylor.

Despite his protests, Jackson said Taylor told him he had no choice. He claimed it was Taylor who brandished the gun during the robbery. After the robbery, Wilkerson drove them to Mahomet where they split the proceeds but Jackson said he got only $40 because he owed his share to Taylor, who got $9,000.

Taylor is represented by Urbana attorney Steve Beckett. Assistant U.S. Attorney Elly Peirson prosecuted him.

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