HAMMOND — "Bingo," a would-be robber told his accomplice as a Brinks armored truck pulled into their view in Merrillville Monday, federal authorities allege.
Traveling in a black Jeep Cherokee, the suspects began following the Brinks truck to various stops, with the ultimate plan of robbing it, federal prosecutors allege.
But the FBI was reportedly trailing them each step of the way.
A short time later, FBI agents thwarted the robbery by following and arresting the two men outside of the Aldi grocery store in Merrillville, the agency reported.
The men also are suspects in another $500,000 robbery of an armored truck in July, federal law enforcement officials said.
On Wednesday, the U.S. attorney’s office charged Reilly Jackson Jr., 23, of Griffith, with conspiracy to commit robbery after the Merrillville incident.
His alleged companion, Delvin Perkins, 23, of South Holland, was charged with being an armed felon.
Federal prosecutors allege in a criminal complaint that an ongoing FBI investigation of the suspects prompted agents to follow Jackson and Perkins on Monday.
The government alleges the men are suspects in a $500,000 robbery of a Thillens Cagistics armored truck July 25 in Blue Island, Illinois.
The government alleges that robbery was an inside job because Jackson was the armored car driver employed by Thillens Cagistics, and Perkins was the alleged robber.
The FBI said it found a photo in Jackson’s cellphone of Perkins wearing the same clothes in which he robbed that armed truck and concluded the pair worked together to commit the Blue Island robbery.
An FBI surveillance team was following the two defendants as they traveled in the Jeep Cherokee on Monday. Agents saw the men following a Brinks armed truck as it made multiple stops to collect money from local banks and businesses, the agency reported.
Those federal agents became concerned a robbery was imminent because the two men didn’t leave their vehicle to do business at any of the locations at which the armored truck stopped. Jackson was wearing dark clothing, and Perkins changed out of brightly colored clothing into dark clothing earlier, federal agents allege.
The agents also noted the Jeep Cherokee Jackson was driving had a temporary license plate that appeared to have been folded over to obscure its number.
The agents requested additional help, and Merrillville police assisted in making the arrests, which took place at 1:55 p.m. on U.S. 30 near Broadway in Merrillville.
At the time of the arrest, the government alleges officers could smell a “very strong odor of marijuana coming from the Jeep.”
Officer also found two firearms — a Glock 9mm semiautomatic handgun and a Springfield Armory .40-caliber semiautomatic gun — in plain view on the passenger side floor where Perkins was sitting.
The U.S. attorney’s office alleges Jackson told authorities both guns belonged to Perkins. The government alleges Perkins illegally possessed the guns because he has a prior felony conviction.
Prosecutors allege Jackson told authorities after his arrest that the two men agreed earlier that day to rob an armored vehicle.
The criminal complaint alleges Jackson told authorities he and Perkins first saw the Brinks truck on U.S. 30 near Southlake Mall in Merrillville, and “Perkins stated, ‘Bingo,’ and instructed Jackson to follow that armored vehicle.”
Federal court records indicate Perkins denied any knowledge of the guns in the car or an agreement with Jackson to commit a robbery.
Ryan Holmes, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Hammond, said the two defendants appeared Wednesday before U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Joshua Kolar for their initial hearings. They are scheduled to return to court March 25.
Perkins was convicted of burglary in 2014 in Cook County Circuit Court, federal authorities said.
“Prosecuting and reducing violent crime are top priorities of my office," U.S. Attorney Tom Kirsch said in a written statement. "This case demonstrates how effective proactive police work can be to reducing violent crime. I commend the FBI and other law enforcement agencies involved in this case.”
These cases will be prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Thomas McGrath.