Tuesday, June 04, 2002

Three area banks robbed

Newport's Monmouth St. has cops 'n robbers chase

By Jane Prendergast and Earnest Winston
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Three Monday morning bank robberies kept police busy, with foot chases leading to three arrests in robberies from downtown Cincinnati to Bellevue.

Newport Police Sgt. Terry Towles leads a robbery suspect to the windows of the Provident Bank at 845 Monmouth St. in Newport, so people inside the bank could identify him.
(Craig Ruttle photos)
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Newport Police captains Cy Sykes and Pat Moore stand with a second suspect in front of the bank windows.
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        Police chased one suspect through downtown Cincinnati after a robbery at the Fifth Third bank near City Hall.

        Less than an hour later, Newport police chased two other suspects through downtown Newport, nabbing them minutes later and making a connection to a Saturday bank robbery in Bellevue.

        And a fourth bank robber — wearing a T-shirt that said “Let's Rock,” — got away after running from the Columbia Savings branch on Ludlow Avenue in Clifton.

        The man arrested in Cincinnati's first robbery of the morning apparently has a thing for the Fifth Third branch behind City Hall.

        This time, police said, Riley Smith, 34, showed the teller a note in the Central Avenue bank and left about 9:11 a.m. with cash. He was in custody eight minutes later — but not until at least three officers chased him on foot, during which they said he kept putting his hand into his shirt, making them think he had a gun.

        Sgt. Michael Savard tackled him, and was hit in the head during the arrest.

        Mr. Smith was convicted in November 1999 for attempted theft — at the same bank. He was sentenced to 180 days in the Hamilton County Justice Center.

        He was arrested in minutes that time, too.

        Just about an hour later, two Northern Kentucky men were arrested and charged with robbing two banks — the Provident Bank branch in Newport on Monday and the Fifth Third Bank branch in Bellevue on Saturday.

        Newport police arrested Anthony Mullens, 23, of Newport, and Jefferson Wipfel, 34, of Covington, minutes after the Provident Bank on Monmouth Street was robbed.

        Lt. Phil Liles said a robber approached the teller with a note saying he had a gun and wanted money.

        The teller gave $1,300 to the robber, who fled and handed the cash to another man. Both ran east on Ninth Street.

        “We actually rolled up on both suspects (in our cruisers) — the first one based on a description from the bank and the second one we actually stopped at Ninth and Roberts because he was kind of just standing there looking unusual,” said Lt. Liles, adding that no weapon was found.

        A bank employee called police at 10:08 a.m., and using physical descriptions provided by tellers, police had nabbed both suspects without incident by 10:10 a.m., Lt. Liles said.

        Police brought the two suspects back to the bank, where they were positively identified by bank employees and customers through the front windows of the bank.

        Just more than an hour later, Cincinnati police responded to yet another bank robbery, this time at the Columbia Savings branch on Ludlow Avenue.

        The robber handed the teller a note demanding money from the drawer. He left the bank with money and was last seen running east on Ludlow.

        Investigators are looking for a black man in his 20s to early 30s, 6-feet-1 to 6-feet-3 and thin with a goatee and several days' growth of facial hair. He wore a white T-shirt with “Let's Rock” on it, a Cincinnati Reds cap, jeans and gym shoes.


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