Career felon charged with burglarizing fitness center locker rooms while on parole for the exact same thing

Robert Bowens | CPD

Update 4:33 PM — During a Monday afternoon press conference, CPD Chief of Detectives Brendan Deenihan praised the financial crimes detective who handled this investigation and said Robert Bowens may be responsible for over 50 fitness center burglaries in the city and suburbs.

Robert Bowens has built a 30-year career as a professional burglar. And, at the age of 53, he appears to still be on the job.

Prosecutors just charged him with burglarizing fitness club lockers and stealing the identity of one of his victims. He’s on parole for doing precisely the same thing, and a source says he is suspected of committing many similar crimes in the city and suburbs since he was paroled last year. In fact, he was just charged with a case in Niles.

His problems in Chicago began on August 31, when employees at XSport, 230 West North Avenue in Old Town, saw Bowens walk into a locker room without a membership, Assistant State’s Attorney John Gnilka said. They confronted him when he came out with a stolen wallet in his pocket, according to Gnilka.

Bowens ran out the back door, but a personal trainer had no trouble catching up with him and holding him for police. Gnilka said Bowens dropped the stolen wallet to the ground after he was caught.

He was initially released on his own recognizance after being charged only with criminal trespass to land.

But he was back in bond court Friday. Prosecutors upgraded the charge to burglary, and they charged him in another case, too.

In that incident, Bowens allegedly broke into an 81-year-old man’s locker while the victim worked out at an LA Fitness in Brighton Park. He then used the victim’s credit card to buy $91 worth of gasoline — a purchase that was captured on video, according to Gnilka. Prosecutors charged him with aggravated identity theft of a person over the age of 60 in that case.

Judge Susana Ortiz released Bowens on his own recognizance.

Even though Bowens has been a burglar for almost all of his adult life, state officials did not ask Cook County authorities to hold Bowens for a potential parole violation.

A source said Bowens walked into as many as five gyms a day when he was “working.” Earlier this month, Chicago police warned patrons of one downtown fitness facility about a series of burglaries in the men’s locker room during August. Investigators are eyeing Bowens as a suspect in those cases.

In 2017, Bowens’ parole was revoked after he was allegedly caught burglarizing three lockers at the same Xsport in Old Town, according to court records. In 2015, he received a five-year sentence for ID theft after being arrested at the East Bank Club, 500 North Kingsbury, records show. His criminal resume is impressive:

  • Five years for ID theft in 2015
  • Six concurrent years for burglary in 2015
  • Another six concurrent years for burglary in 2015
  • 30 months for unlawful possession of a credit card in 2013
  • A concurrent 30 months for the same charge in 2013
  • Another concurrent 30 months for the same charge in 2013
  • Four years for theft from person in 2010
  • Six years for burglary in 2007
  • Five years for burglary in 1990
  • Another 5 years for burglary in 1990
  • Yet another five years for robbery in 1990

He’s due back in court on September 24.

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CWBChicago was created in 2013 by five residents of Wrigleyville and Boystown who had grown disheartened with inaccurate information that was being provided at local Community Policing (CAPS) meetings. Our coverage area has expanded since then to cover Lincoln Park, River North, The Loop, Uptown, and other North Side Areas. But our mission remains unchanged: To provide original public safety reporting with better context and greater detail than mainstream media outlets. Our editorial email address is