Cops: Small-business owner turns to crime to pay the bills

2012-10-14T00:00:00Z 2012-10-14T23:47:05Z Cops: Small-business owner turns to crime to pay the billsMarisa Kwiatkowski, (219) 662-5333

After the loss of his used car business, 66-year-old Curtis Burrow decided bank robbery would help pay his bills, authorities said.

The Schererville resident abruptly closed Crown Point-based Auto Maxx LLC in September amid numerous consumer complaints and an investigation by the Indiana Secretary of State's Auto Dealer Services Division.

Burrow allegedly robbed his first bank about a month later — on the same day the state revoked his dealer's license.

He donned a black fedora, big sunglasses, a suit and tie and walked into a Standard Bank branch about 9:30 a.m. Oct. 2 in Lockport, Ill., according to Lockport police records. Burrow reportedly brandished a gun, told the bank teller to give him all of her money and left the bank with an undisclosed amount of money.

Four days later, Burrow allegedly robbed a Bank of America branch in Glen Ellyn, Ill.

This time, Burrow sported a black jacket and blue jeans with his fedora and sunglasses, federal court records state. He waited in line, then, once it was his turn, opened a black zippered bag and showed the teller a note.

"Four of us, all cops, no dye packs, bands or trackers," the note said. "Empty all registers. We see any cops, we shoot. Five seconds. We have police radios, no games."

Burrow pulled a gun out of the black bag and held it sideways, close to his body, court records state. The teller put $3,692 in the bag with a GPS tracking device, and Burrow left the bank.

Bank employees contacted the Glen Ellyn Police Department with information about the robbery and location of the GPS device, which led officers to pull over a 2010 Honda Accord, police and court records state.

Burrow got out of the driver's side of the car and another unidentified individual got out of the passenger's side.

"The gun is in the car, and (the other person) was not involved, and there were no others," Burrow told police.

He said he and the unidentified passenger drove to Glen Ellyn to look at used cars. Burrow told police the other person didn't know he was going to rob the bank, federal court records state. That individual later was released without facing charges.

"No information indicated (the passenger) was in the bank, and he was not driving the car," said Bill Holmer, deputy police chief of the Glen Ellyn Police Department.

Burrow also admitted robbing the bank in Lockport, federal court records show. He was arrested and charged with one count of bank robbery in the Glen Ellyn case in federal court.

Deepening mystery

How does a small-business owner with no criminal history end up accused in two bank robberies?

Burrow told police he owned a used car business and couldn't pay his bills. He said he started robbing banks to pay bills.

Bud Slepcevich, who owns the property at the intersection of Summit and Main streets where Burrow ran his car dealership, said Burrow had been a good tenant who paid his rent on time.

Slepcevich said he learned Auto Maxx was out of business via text.

Slepcevich said he stopped by Auto Maxx during the first week of September to pick up a rent check from Burrow. The business was closed with a note on the door that said Burrow was sick and would be gone for a couple of weeks.

All the cars had been cleared from the lot, but Slepcevich said he still saw furniture and items in the office so he didn't worry about it.

A short time later, Slepcevich said he received a text from a private number. The text said it was from Burrow's son. It said Burrow was sick and had had a stroke so Auto Maxx was out of business. The text told Slepcevich he could have everything in the building.

Burrow did not tell Indiana officials he was closing his business, state records show.

An investigator from the Indiana Secretary of State Auto Dealer Services Division tried to visit Auto Maxx on Sept. 13, only to find the property had been vacated, according to an order of revocation dated Oct. 2. The investigator's visit had been prompted by consumer complaints.

Five customers had filed complaints against Auto Maxx since August, state records show. All of them complained they did not receive titles to the vehicles they purchased from Burrow's dealership.

Two other customers filed complaints against Auto Maxx with the Better Business Bureau, records show.

Neither Burrow nor his family members could be reached this week for comment. No one answered the door of Burrow's spacious Schererville home. His neighbors either could not be reached or declined to comment.

In addition to his criminal charge of bank robbery, Burrow also may face civil penalties from the Indiana secretary of state's office. The agency's enforcement attorney asked officials to issue a fine of between $50 and $1,000 per day against Burrow for each violation of Indiana's Motor Vehicle Manufacturers, Distributors and Dealers Act, state records show.

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