By Liam Ford
2:01 PM CDT, May 11, 2013
Two men whose accomplice was shot to death by law enforcement in far northwest suburban Richmond on Friday have been charged with attempted bank robbery after FBI agents investigating a series of robberies cornered them, according to the FBI.
Aaron Russell, 40, and Roberto Favela, 34, were charged late Friday and appeared in federal court this morning, according to the FBI. Shot to death after he rammed an FBI agent’s car was Tony Starnes, 45, of the 7800 block of South Marquette Avenue, according to the criminal complaint.
Information about the charges was not released until after they appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael T. Mason this morning in federal court in Chicago.
The shooting happened about 11:30 a.m. in the parking lot of the Associated Bank at 10910 N. Main St. in Richmond, just west of the Chain O' Lakes near the border with Wisconsin.
FBI agents had been investigating Russell and Starnes, and others who aren't named, in connection with a string of jewelry store robberies in the Chicago area, according to the criminal complaint against Russell and Favela. Investigators suspect Russell and Starnes in an armed bank robbery Feb. 2 bank robbey in Poplar Grove. They were planning another at the bank in Richmond, according to the criminal complaint.
Law enforcement conducting surveillance on Friday saw Favela driving a black 2004 Chevy Tahoe and Starnes driving a silver 2005 Honda Civic that had been reported stolen in Chicago in December, according to the complaint. On Friday, according to the complaint, the FBI followed the suspects from Chicago to an area in Wisconsin near the Illinois-Wisconsin border, including, according to a source, following them on Interstate 90.
In Wisconsin, Russell got out of the Tahoe and got into the back seat of the Civic, and the two vehicles then drove to a car wash in Richmond across the street from the bank, according to the complaint. The Civic drove past the bank, then made a U-turn and parked in the bank parking lot, where it was joined by the Tahoe, which parked a little farther from the bank in the lot.
When FBI agents soon surrounded the Civic in the bank parking lot and announced they were law enforcement officers, he rammed an FBI agent’s vehicle, and was fatally shot.
When agents and police arrested Russell, still in the back seat of the Civic, was wearing a face mask around his neck and had gloves on. Agents asked Russell if he had any weapons, and he replied he had none, but told them a “38” and a “45” in the car, and investigators found.38-caliber and .45-caliber handguns in the car, according to the complaint.
Russell, of the 9200 block of Hunter Drive in Orland Hills, waived his Miranda rights, and told FBI agents he, Starnes, and Favela, of the 5500 block of South California Avenue, met in Chicago Friday and went to Richmond to rob the bank, according to the complaint. Russell told agents they circled the bank because they wanted all the customers to leave the bank before they robbed it.
Russell told investigators that Favela was to have acted as a lookout, and Russell and Starnes were going to rob the bank, according to the complaint.
“Russell said he had two firearms in a bag in the back seat of the Honda Civic and Starnes had a firearm on the front seat,” according to the complaint. “Russell said the goal was not to hurt anyone inside the bank, but that the firearms were real.”
None of the men had entered the bank before the shooting broke out in the parking lot, according to FBI spokeswoman Joan Hyde.
After the robbery, Associated Bank released a statement saying "our customers and colleagues at our Richmond branch are safe and secure. We are fully cooperating with local law enforcement to help resolve the situation."
A woman who works in the business next door said workers were terrified by the shooting.
Geri Rubel, an accountant at a firm in an adjoining part of the bank building, said that about 11:30 a.m., she heard two bursts of rapid, automatic gunfire outside, one short and one long. She and her co-workers looked out the front window of her office and saw men with guns running through the parking lot toward the bank.
“That scared the (expletive) out of us,” she said. “We locked the door, went to a corner of the room and cried because we didn’t know what was going on. I thought of my kids, and called the high school (to alert them).”
They peeked out the window occasionally to see what was happening, until a McHenry County Sheriff’s deputy came to the office to tell them that investigators had been staking out a robbery of the bank and that one suspect was killed.
Rubel said the body of the dead man was lying in the parking lot, and another man was taken away in handcuffs in a black SUV. The men she saw with the guns turned out to be law enforcement agents.
The police response was so quick that it was obvious they anticipated the robbery, she said. “To have all of them within 30 seconds, I’m thinking they must have known something,” Rubel said.
McHenry County Undersheriff Andrew Zinke said his office was called about 11:30 a.m. to assist the FBI and Spring Grove police.
Russell has armed robbery convictions from 2005 and 1991, according to the complaint.
In their hearing today, Russell and Favela were ordered held pending a hearing Tuesday. They could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted, according to the FBI.Robert McCoppin and Rosemary Regina Sobol contributed
Copyright © 2014 Chicago Tribune Company, LLC