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Man pleads guilty in helping stage Liberty Bank robbery

From Illinois Business Journal news services

EAST ST. LOUIS – A Moro man pleaded guilty Wednesday to charges stemming from his role in conspiring with a bank manager to fake a robbery at Liberty Bank in Bethalto.

Eugene Babcock, 58, entered the plea in United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois to charges stemming from the staged bank robbery on Dec. 13, 2014. Sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 15.

At sentencing, Babcock faces a term of imprisonment of not more than 10 years, a fine of up to $250,000, and a term of supervised release of not more than three years.

Stephen R. Wigginton, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Illinois, said that facts revealed in open court Wednesday indicated that a bank manager had engaged Babcock to assist him with a “staged” bank robbery, which the manager then reported, in order for the two of them to share in funds stolen from the bank.

When confronted by the police, Babcock returned over $100,000 taken from the fake bank robbery to investigators, Wigginton said.

Matthew S. Liebheit, also of Moro, was charged in March with a three-count complaint charging him with two counts of theft, embezzlement or misapplication by a bank officer or employee, and one count of false bank entries.

According to a previous release from the office of the U.S. attorney, Liebheit, a bank manager at Liberty Bank, called police to report a bank robbery, indicating that a masked individual forced him into the bank at gunpoint prior to the bank opening. He gave a description of the suspect’s vehicle as being a tan station wagon or crossover style vehicle. He stated that he was forced to give that individual over $200,000 from the bank’s vault.

The office said that further investigation revealed that Liebheit’s truck was used by the masked individual and a band of $10 bills was found in a search of Liebheit’s truck. Additional investigation showed that Liebheit had allegedly altered withdrawal documents from a Liberty Bank customer’s account to reflect a larger than intended withdrawal from that customer’s account. The day before the purported robbery, Liebheit allegedly falsified documentation to show a substantial deposit to that customer’s account.

If convicted, Liebheit faces a term in federal prison of not more than 30 years, a fine of up to $1 million and a term of supervised release of not more than five years. He has entered a plea of not guilty.

The case is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigations and the Bethalto Police Department. The case is assigned to Assistant United States Attorney Laura Reppert.

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