CHICAGO -- It was the bank heist version of robbing Peter to pay Paul.
A Chicago woman held up a TCF Bank over the Memorial Day weekend -- in part to repay the $20,000 she had been caught embezzling from a Chase Bank where she worked, federal authorities alleged.
Navahcia Edwards, 23, was arrested Thursday on charges she and a male accomplice who is not in custody dressed up as nuns and donned masks, took over the TCF Bank in Palos Heights, Ill., at gunpoint and fled with $120,000 in cash from the vault. Edwards had once worked at that bank as well.
Three weeks earlier she had been charged in the same courthouse with the bank embezzlement. While a teller at a Chase Bank branch in Country Club Hills in April, she allegedly walked off with about $20,000 in cash by replacing $100 bills with singles in bundles of cash.
In the TCF Bank holdup May 29, the suspects appeared to have borrowed from the movie "The Town" in choosing their full-body disguises, which included distorted, scary-looking masks and long flowing nun robes that characters in the movie used in bank robberies.
But according to authorities, Edwards still managed to leave a rich trail of evidence, including receipts of the purchases of the nun costumes and the rental of the alleged getaway car.
The criminal complaint lodged against Edwards hinted at a motive: two weeks earlier she had promised Chase bank officials that she expected to repay the rest of the money she had allegedly confessed to stealing.
"It's great physical and incidental evidence, but it took a great deal of effort to put all those pieces together," said Ross Rice, a spokesman for the Chicago FBI office, which investigated the case with Palos Heights police.
Edwards was ordered held in custody until a detention hearing Thursday.
About two weeks before the TCF Bank robbery, Edwards allegedly purchased two "Adult Funny Nun Costumes" and two "Nun on the Run Adult Masks" with a prepaid debit card that she purchased at a currency exchange she regularly frequents. The purchase was caught on a security camera, and an employee at the currency exchange recognized Edwards during the purchase, according to the charges.
Edwards also used the card to purchase white zip ties from a hardware store. The zip ties appear to match those used to tie the hands of two tellers in the TCF Bank robbery, federal authorities said.
The car rented by Edwards also was believed to have been used in the TCF robbery based on video surveillance of the getaway car at the robbery scene, according to the complaint.
Edwards and her accomplice stormed the bank with handguns, jumped over counters and forced tellers to open the vault, authorities charged. While her accomplice held a gun against a teller's head, Edwards avoided anti-theft devices and a vault that kept only coins in order to retrieve the $120,000, tipping authorities off that the robber likely had inside knowledge.
Federal authorities said that Edwards' boyfriend of four years scoped out the bank just a few hours before the robbery, asking employees if only two tellers were working that day. Cameras in the bank also caught the boyfriend raising his leg up to the height of the counter, perhaps checking to see if he could jump atop it.
The boyfriend -- who was not charged -- was stopped by police officers on June 10 in a car that had $3,000 cash rolled in rubber bands.
Under questioning by the FBI, he allegedly started crying before blurting out, "My life is ruined."
(c) 2011, Chicago Tribune.
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