Five convicted in $70 million bank theft

CHICAGO -- A federal jury Friday convicted five men of stealing nearly $70 million through electronic transfers from First National Bank of Chicago.

Armand Moore, 31; Neal Jackson, 32; Ronald Carson, Leonard Strickland, 51; all of Detroit and Otis Wilson, 31, of Chicago were convicted of the May 1988 wire transfer of $69,125,000 from three First Nationalaccounts to banks in Vienna, Austria, in what prosecutors said was a near-perfect crime.


'They (the defendants) were probably one day away ... from burning the First National Bank of $70 million,' said Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeff Stone during closing arguments Thursday.

Two other Chicagoans, Gabriel Taylor and Hershel Bailey, pleaded guilty and appeared as government trial witnesses.

Moore, the alleged mastermind of the plot who was on parole for a 1982 bank fraud conviction, claimed he was unknowingly caught up in the caper by Bailey.

But Bailey testified during the two-week trial in U.S. District Court that Moore had approached him to ask that he recruit bank employees to help him transfer money by wire. Bailey said Moore was the one who planned and coordinated the scheme. Stone agreed.

Stone said Moore's claims against Bailey were absurd and charged he is 'physically unable to tell the truth.'


Stone said Moore, 'a con-man and a liar,' planned the entire scheme and recruited all of his co-defendants.

'Armand Moore was out spending the money before he even got his hands on it,' Stone said, pointing to negotiations between Moore and a realtor for an eight-bedroom, eight-bath luxury suite in a high rise.

Moore's attorney, Paul Wagner, argued that the government's witnesses were lying to save themselves, telling the court 'what the government wants them to tell.'

'This case is loaded with red herrings, false clues and ground clutter,' Wagner said. 'This case finally boils down to credibility.'

The government claims that on May 13, 1988 -- a Friday -- Taylor, who worked in the bank's wire room, sent $24,375,000 from a Merrill Lynch account; $19,750,000 from a Brown-Foreman distilleries account and $25 million from the account of United Airlines to Austria via New York. The three transactions took just under one hour.

Moore, posing as various executives from the companies, allegedly ordered the transfers by phone from Bailey's South Side home.

The seven were arrested one week later after a United Airlines official discovered a massive overdraft on its account.

Wilson, Moore, Jackson and Bailey were arrested May 17 in Chicago and Strickland and Carson were arrested May 19 in Detroit.


Each faces a maximum 25 years in prison on charges of conspiracy, bank fraud and wire fraud.

Moore and Wilson were the only two denied bond pending a Sept. 20 sentencing date.

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