Serial bank scammer with “dozens of victims” to serve just 1 year behind bars after prosecutors cut a sweet deal

When prosecutors announced charges against Thomas Lewis in September 2020, they said he may have robbed more than 20 people at bank ATMs across the city and suburbs that summer.

But, when it came down to it, Lewis put it all behind him by pleading guilty to one charge of theft by deception and another count of operating a continuing financial crimes enterprise. According to court records, prosecutors dropped dozens of other felonies, including robberies, forgeries, thefts, financial crimes, and identity theft.

Thomas Lewis and the Citibank at 180 North Michigan. | CPD; Google

Lewis, 35, who has served seven previous Illinois prison terms — six for theft, one for identity theft — will be out in February because he is receiving credit for a year he spent on electronic monitoring.

On June 23, 2020, Lewis allegedly approached a woman and her service dog as she conducted a transaction at the Citibank ATM, 180 North Michigan. Lewis asked the woman for help using the machine next to her and then inserted a check into the ATM that the woman was using, Assistant State’s Attorney Jack Costello said during a bail hearing three months later.

Lewis then allegedly tried to withdraw money from the woman’s account by pushing buttons on her ATM. Costello said the woman screamed at Lewis, pushed him away, and pressed the machine’s “cancel” button. But Lewis cornered her, forced her to enter her PIN, and withdrew $700 from her account before fleeing, according to the state.

On July 29, 2020, Lewis robbed a man of $900 through a similar scheme at a South Loop bank branch, according to Costello. Lewis made three $300 withdrawals during that incident and told the victim to “back off” because “nobody needs to get shot today,” Costello continued.

Bank surveillance cameras recorded the crimes. Lewis admitted to both robberies and “others of a similar nature,” Costello said. All of the cases that Lewis was suspected of committing followed the same pattern of approaching customers at ATMs and taking control of the machines, according to Costello.

Costello said “conservatively…at least 20” similar cases involving “dozens of victims” may have been linked to Lewis. Four law enforcement agencies were preparing additional charges at the time, Costello said.

Lewis was on bail for a pending forgery case at the time of the ATM crimes.

But that’s all water under the bridge now. Lewis reached a plea deal with prosecutors in which they dropped the 22 felonies and pleaded guilty to one theft charge and the financial crimes enterprise count. Judge Timothy Joyce sentenced him to one year and four years respectively.

He also served 180 days in jail and paid $900 restitution for a separate theft charge from Orland Park. Prosecutors dropped seven felonies in that case, including misappropriation of financial institution property.

You can support CWBChicago’s start-to-finish tracking of court cases by becoming a subscriber today!