While Focus Is On 1 Branch After Robbery, Another Is Hit

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A man who broke out of prison was arrested in Wisconsin and police say he is a suspect in the robbery of two branches of the same credit union on the same day.

On Sept. 20, police say a man walked into the Washington Avenue branch of Heartland Credit Union at 9:35 a.m., demanded money and fled on foot. At 4:35 p.m. the same day, a man with a green towel partially wrapped around his face, walked into the CU branch of Williamson Street, implied he had a gun and demanded money before fleeing on foot.

Madison Police had been looking for 35-year-old Benjamin Woody, who had escaped from the Oregon Correctional Center only 12 hours before the first CU robbery, where he was serving the first month of a two-and-half-year sentence for robbing Madison apartments. Woody had also escaped custody in 1991 and remained at large for a month. Madison Police Public Information Officer Mike Hanson said Woody was arrested on a warrant for his escape from prison and is a suspect in the Heartland robberies. By coincidence, Officer Hanson is married to a Heartland CU vice president.

Heartland CU reported no injuries or damage during the robberies and wouldn't disclose the amount of money taken, as it's CU policy to not even inform credit union employees of the amount at risk, according to CU Vice President Robin Marohn.

Marohn said Heartland CU had an attempted robbery in June and that robberies hadn't been a large issue for the credit union until this summer. Marohn said CU staff were at the first location assessing the situation when Madison Police called to report the second robbery.

"Two in a day? I've never heard of it," he said. "We had a hard time believing it at first. We looked at each and said 'what's going on here'?"

Marohn said some Heartland employees had a difficult time emotionally due to the robberies, which were triggered again after Woody's arrest. As a result, Heartland CU had shifted employees around branches to make up for absent employees, he said. Marohn said Heartland CU had done "as much as possible" regarding branch security without interfering with customer service and employee safety.

"It's a delicate dance," he said. "You don't want member service to suffer."

Marohn called CU security an ongoing process that can't be written in a book and placed on a shelf for someday. Heartland CU used to review security each fiscal quarter but now performs assessments as often as possible, with safety as the ultimate goal, he said. "Money can be replaced. People can't."

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