Tellers Terrorized By Robbers, JuryTold

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ST. LOUIS - (02/02/06) – A gang that tried to rob 18local credit unions and banks over five years, taking tellershostage to gain entrance before the institutions opened to gainentrance, threatened hostages and terrorized employees during theheists, which netted more than $1.4 million, federal prosecutorsexclaimed during Tuesday’s opening arguments for allegedgangleader Otis McAllister. Six alleged accomplices of McAllisterhave pleaded guilty and several of them are cooperating with theprosecution. The gang allegedly robbed nine credit unions and banksin Missouri, Illinois and Ohio, among them were two of the biggestcredit union robberies ever; the June 12, 2000 theft of Jennings,Mo., branch of St. Louis Community CU $266,293 and the December 8,2000 theft of $211,590 from the St. Louis branch of the same creditunion. The prosecution's first witness, Kekelia Black, said she metone of the co-defendants, Franklin Morris, while working at St.Louis Community CU for which Morris had provided security guards.Black said that in 1999, she agreed to provide Morris with accountinformation that he used to siphon nearly $100,000 out of customeraccounts. In 2000, after leaving the credit union, Morris asked herto meet with another man, identified as McAllister, to discuss thecredit union's vulnerabilities to a robbery, such as the fact thata single person opened it in the mornings. Defense lawyers arguedthat because the robbers’ identities were disguised by masksand even women’s clothing, none of employees or victims canidentify McAllister. The gang also hit South Community CU, in St.Louis, for $196,000, and attempted robberies at Alliance CU,Hazelwood, Mo., Southern Illinois Area CU, Midwest CU, Florissant,Mo., Gateway Federal Employees CU, Pine Lawn, Mo. And FirstCommunity CU, Fairview Heights, Ill. Their biggest heist was atCass Commercial Bank in St. Louis on October 29, 2002, when$285,505 was stolen.

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