Chicago Prison Escape: Footage of Bank Robbers Garners New Leads in Manhunt

PHOTO: Kenneth Conley, left, and Jose Banks two inmates who escaped from the Metropolitan Correctional Center in downtown Chicago, Dec. 18, 2012.PlayHOPD/FBI/AP Photo
WATCH Jail Break: Chicago Fugitives on the Loose

The manhunt for two bank robbers who escaped from a downtown Chicago prison this week intensified overnight, with police chasing multiple leads as new footage shows the men getting into a taxi minutes after their brazen escape.

Investigators say surveillance cameras captured Joseph "Jose" Banks, 37, and Kenneth Conley, 38, getting into a taxi minutes after their early Tuesday escape. They entered the taxi at the intersection of Michigan Avenue and Congress Street, just blocks away from the jail.

The FBI considers them "armed and dangerous."

The men then showed up five hours later at the home of Sandy Conley, Kenneth Conley's mother, in the Chicago suburb of Tinley Park, Ill.

"He was in the house for two minutes," Sandy Conley said. "I can't tell you if he was armed. I made him get out."

Thomas Trautmann of the Chicago FBI said the clock is ticking on finding the men.

"[As] each hour goes by, our chances get longer and longer," he said. "However, we do have several viable leads that we are running down."

He did not specify the information.

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Banks and Conley were last seen Monday at 10 p.m. during a prison head count at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in downtown Chicago's Loop district. The two borrowed a move from the film "Escape From Alcatraz" by stuffing their beds with clothes in the shape of bodies.

They men then broke the window of their cell at the federal prison, shimmying out a hole only inches wide, and scaled down the side of the building 17 stories, all the while holding onto a rope of sheets and towels taken from the prison. The rope was strong enough to support the two, one weighing 165 pounds the other 185 pounds.

At 7 a.m. the next morning, as employees arrived at work, they noticed the sheets left dangling from the building and at jailers discovered that Conley and Banks were missing.

While the men have had plenty of time to leave the area, there's no indication that they have, ABC 7 TV's public-safety expert Jody Weis said.

"There's a likelihood that they're going to stay here," Weis, a former Chicago police superintendent, said. "They'll have people they can trust. They can have people they can work with. There are going to be people that might be able to hide them out."

Banks, nicknamed "the second-hand bandit" because of the used clothing disguises he wore in several robberies, was convicted of armed robbery last week. His parting words to his judge, Rebecca Pallmeyer, were, "I'll be seeking retribution as well as damages ... you'll hear from me."

Conley had been in jail for several years.

Pallmeyer and others who presided over the men's cases have reportedly been offered protection.

"If they're willing to go down a sheet 17 floors, they're willing to take a chance," Weis said. "And I think you can draw your own conclusion as to what that might mean."

The FBI and U.S. Marshals are offering a combined reward of $60,000 to find the inmates and bring them back into custody.

Escape Has Similarities to 1985 Prison Break

Banks and Conley's disappearance has some striking similarities to the daring escape made by two convicted murders who also broke out of the downtown jail 27 years ago.

Bernard Welch and Hugh Colomb, who were serving sentences for murder, fled the facility May 14, 1985, by using an electrical-cord rope from the sixth floor of the side of the prison. During an intense rainstorm, the two first knocked out the window with a barbell weight.

Welch and Colomb were on the run for months before they were caught, according to ABC affiliate WABC.

Welch was captured three months later when police answered a complaint about an illegally parked car in Greensburg, Pa., according to an Associated Press report at the time. Police discovered the car had been stolen in Milwaukee and the tags were stolen in a different Pennsylvania town. He was found by authorities sleeping in a third-floor apartment and arrested, according to the AP.

Colomb was apprehended that October in Mississippi, after he robbed a bank with a sawed-off shotgun.