HAMMOND – A Michigan City man was sentenced to more than five years in federal prison after pleading guilty to robbing three banks, two in the same day, last year, according to federal prosecutors.
Jason Cheek, 42, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Philip Simon after pleading guilty to three counts of bank robbery, according to U.S. Attorney Thomas Kirsch.
Cheek was sentenced to 63 months in federal prison and two years of supervised release, and was ordered to pay $15,694 in restitution to the banks and $8,584.66 in restitution to a bank teller, according to Kirsch.
According to documents in this case, between June 5, 2018, and July 31, 2018, Cheek robbed three banks: two in Michigan City and one in Portage.
According to court documents, Cheek was captured on July 31, 2018, after trying to rob the two banks in just over an hour that same afternoon.
According to a Michigan City Police report, the 1st Source Bank near Marquette Mall was robbed at 3:17 p.m. July 31. The suspect entered the bank at Franklin Street and St. John Road, and approached a 27-year-old female teller.
“My name is Toby and I’ll be your robber today,” the criminal complaint claims he told the teller.
He said he did not want money from the top drawer, and when the teller apparently took too long, he told her to hurry up or he would start shooting. After she put about $3,000 in a black canvas bag he’d set on the counter, he said, “Go ahead and hit your button,” then fled the bank on foot, according to federal prosecutors.
He ran southbound from the bank, police said. He never showed a weapon, and no one was injured.
Just over an hour later, at 4:28 p.m., the Chase Bank branch at 3275 Willowcreek Road in Portage was robbed.
A suspect with the same description and clothing as the earlier robbery walked up to a teller and said, “I’m going to be your robber today,” according to the criminal complaint. He told her to get cash from a dispensing machine, and at one point said, “Hurry up. I don’t want to shoot you.” He left the bank with about $2,000 in cash.
The suspect and a 17-year-old boy drove off in a black Nissan, and a Portage Police officer en route to the robbery spotted the vehicle near the intersection of Lute and Airport roads, according to Portage Police. The vehicle was pulled over, and when the suspects told conflicting stories, they were taken in for questioning.
The suspect in the Chase Bank robbery was clearly identified by surveillance photos as Cheek, who was later identified as the suspect in the 1st Source robbery.
Michigan City detectives traveled to Portage and joint interviews took place with detectives from both departments and the FBI. Information gained from the interviews, as well as evidence recovered from the car, led to the arrests, police said.
Federal prosecutors later said Cheek confessed to all three robberies.
“Cheek said he carried a BB gun that looked real during all three robberies,” the criminal complaint states. In the June robbery he kept it in his waistband, and in the other two, it was kept in the bag.
In the June 5 robbery, the suspect pushed a female customer out of his way to get to a teller, the complaint states. He put his bag on the counter and told the teller if she did not give him money, or pressed the red button, he would shoot the customer.
The teller at first thought it was a joke, but he assured her it was not, the complaint states. After the teller complied, he picked up the customer’s car keys, handed them to her, and said, “Here, Sweetie.” He then gave her two $20 bills from the stolen money and said it was “for her troubles.”
He got away with nearly $10,700 in that robbery, the complaint states.
A 17-year-old boy was also taken into custody, while a third person in the vehicle was questioned and released, police said.