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Jailbirds ride taxi to freedom

CHICAGO — Two bank robbers who broke out of a high-rise jail in downtown Chicago hailed a cab and used it as a getaway car after they escaped from the facility, investigators searching for the pair said yesterday.

Authorities also announced a $50,000 reward for information leading to the apprehension of the two, identified as Joseph Jose Banks and Kenneth Conley.

Banks and Conley escaped from the Metropolitan Correctional Centre in downtown Chicago early on Tuesday morning. The pair apparently broke a window in the cell they shared, squeezed through the 4-inch opening and lowered themselves nearly 20 stories to the street using a makeshift rope, authorities said.

An FBI spokesman said that based on videotape evidence, agents believe the pair hailed a taxi a few blocks away from the jail. That cab was last seen heading south on one of Chicago’s main thoroughfares, Michigan Avenue, shortly afterwards.

The manhunt, which now involves a “small army” drawn from the FBI, the US Marshals Service and the Chicago Police Department, according to the FBI spokesman, continued for a second day yesterday.

On Tuesday, federal arrest warrants were issued for Banks, who was convicted of armed robbery earlier this month, and Conley, who pleaded guilty to bank robbery in October. Both men were set to be sentenced early next year.

According to a federal affidavit, Banks and Conley were cell mates and were present during a physical head count at the jail at 10 p.m. Monday night.

But jail employees arriving for work Tuesday morning saw what appeared to be a rope hanging from a window on the south side of the building. When a physical head count was conducted inside the facility, neither Banks nor Conley was present. (Reuters)

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