The 41-year-old Michigan City man charged Wednesday in federal court with armed bank robberies Tuesday in Michigan City and Portage, and another last month in Michigan City told police he used a BB gun and made off with a total of nearly $16,000.
More details emerged as a result of the federal charges filed against Jason Jay Cheek, who was charged in U.S. District Court in Hammond with the June 5 robbery of the Chase Bank at 4365 Franklin St. in Michigan City, and Tuesday's robberies at 1st Source Bank at 3905 Franklin St. in Michigan City and Chase Bank at 3275 Willowcreek Road in Portage, according to U.S. Attorney Thomas Kirsch.
Cheek pushed a customer aside during the June 5 robbery, threatened to shoot the teller if she pushed an emergency button, and then handed the same customer, who he referred to as "sweetie," her vehicle keys from the counter and gave her two $20 bills saying, "Here, for your troubles," according to the federal charging information. He reportedly fled with $10,694.
During Tuesday's Michigan City robbery, Cheek told the teller, "My name is Toby and I'll be your robber today," according to court documents. He threatened to shoot if the teller did not hurry in collecting the money and once he had the cash said, "Go ahead and hit your button." He reportedly made off with $3,000.
He again told the teller at the Portage bank "I'm going to be your robber today," according to charging documents. He ordered the clerk to remove money from a cash dispensing machine, urging her to hurry so he didn't have to shoot. He then reportedly thanked the teller before leaving with $2,000.
Cheek confessed to all three robberies and said he carried a BB gun that looked like a real gun, according to court documents. He also carried a black canvas bag.
"Bank robbers put the lives of bank employees and customers at risk," Kirsch said. "I will continue to work with state and local law enforcement to ensure that bank robbers and other violent offenders in the Northern District of Indiana are brought to justice."
Porter County police said Cheeks was picked up from the jail by the FBI before he could be processed and thus no jail photo was immediately available.
A 17-year-old male from Michigan City taken into custody with Cheek will likely be charged locally, Portage Police Chief Troy Williams said.
The boy was taken to the Porter County Juvenile Detention Center, he said.
"Prosecutors will determine if the juvenile will be waived to adult court," Williams said.
Tuesday's Michigan City robbery occurred at 3:17 p.m. and the Portage robbery followed at 4:28 p.m, police said.
Portage police took various routes to the bank in order to spot the suspect vehicle, Williams said.
Within two minutes of the dispatch, Officer Matt Johnson initiated a traffic stop at the intersection of Lute and Airport roads, police said. The vehicle contained three occupants, whose stories were not matching up and all were taken in for questioning.
Portage and Michigan City police, as well as a representative of the FBI questioned the suspects and two were arrested.
"The suspect in the Chase Bank robbery was clearly identified by surveillance photos from the bank," Williams said. "A third person in the vehicle was questioned and ultimately released."
"It must be noted that the professionalism and calmness under stress by the employees of Chase Bank cannot be overstated," Williams said. "They were a main factor in this case being resolved so quickly."
The case was investigated by the FBI GRIT Task Force with the assistance of the Michigan City and Portage police departments.