Two Chicago men head back to prison for burglarizing fitness center locker rooms. Again.

CHICAGO — Two men who allegedly conducted separate burglary and identity theft sprees that focused on stealing credit cards and other items from fitness center locker rooms have been sentenced to prison. The sentences were handed down about a month after we reported that a third man accused of similar crimes had also been sent to prison.

Locker break-ins are a popular line of work in some corners.

In March, we reported that Lamont Cathey, a 13-time convicted felon, pleaded guilty to burglary, aiding or abetting the possession of a stolen motor vehicle, and two counts of identity theft.

Among other things, prosecutors said he stole one gym rat’s Maserati from the fitness center parking lot after taking keys from the victim’s locker. He was convicted in 2021 of breaking in to lockers, taking credit cards, and using them at nearby businesses.

Now, two men with similar skill sets are also returning to prison

Robert Bowens and Hector Roman | Chicago Police Department; Pexels

Locker room burglaries in the city and suburbs

One of the newly-sentenced men is Hector Roman, who, at the age of 22, has racked up 18 felony convictions. Nearly all of them involve crimes linked to locker room burglaries.

Back in 2019, prosecutors accused Roman of taking wallets and car keys from gym lockers stretching from Boystown to Lincoln Square to Edgewater and even the north suburbs. He also stole property from vehicles on the gym’s parking lot after he used stolen keys to open the cars, according to allegations in court records. Then, Roman used the credit cards at nearby stores.

Many of the burglaries occurred after Roman went missing while on bail for burglarizing another gym locker earlier in 2019.

Shortly after being paroled around Thanksgiving 2021, Roman broke into a locker at XSport, 5515 West Irving Park Road, then he used the victim’s credit cards to buy $300 worth of gift cards at a nearby Walgreens, prosecutors alleged.

The victim used a padlock to secure his locker, but it was cut off when he returned after his workout. Cops recognized Roman in surveillance images from Walgreens and XSport.

When they caught up with him two months later, he was allegedly carrying bolt cutters in a backpack.

He recently pleaded guilty to seven counts of burglary related to locker room break-ins and one count of aggravated battery of a government employee, according to court records.

Judge Michael McHale sentenced Roman to a range of 4½ to eight years on each of the burglary counts. Those will be served concurrently with three years for the battery charge.

Prosecutors dropped several felonies in their plea deal with Roman, including multiple counts of identity theft. Illinois Department of Corrections records show that he is scheduled to be paroled in November 2027 after serving about half of his sentences.

32-year criminal career

Robert Bowens, 55, has built a 30-year career as a professional burglar. And, at the age of 53, he’s back behind bars after getting caught.

He recently pleaded guilty to two counts of burglary and one count of aggravated identity theft of a senior citizen in exchange for concurrent four-year sentences from Judge Carol Howard, according to court records. He’ll be released in September after serving half of that time.

Like Roman, Bowens was on parole for similar crimes when police arrested him in September 2021. Brendan Deenihan, then chief of detectives for the Chicago Police Department, said Bowens’ latest crime wave may have involved over 50 fitness center burglaries in the city and suburbs. A source said Bowens walked into as many as five gyms a day when he was “working.”

But prosecutors only charged him with two cases.

He met his fate when employees at XSport, 230 West North Avenue in Old Town, saw Bowens walk into a locker room without a membership, and they confronted him when he came out of the locker room with a stolen wallet in his pocket, prosecutors said.

Bowens ran out the back door, but a personal trainer had no trouble catching up and holding him for the police.

Investigators subsequently linked him to another break-in at LA Fitness in Brighton Park. That time, he allegedly broke into an 81-year-old man’s locker while the victim worked out and used the victim’s credit card to buy $91 worth of gasoline.

While Bowens was on parole in 2017, 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.

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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 news@cwbchicago.com