2 Inmates Suspected Of Coordinating Bank Robberies

AKRON, Ohio (AP) - Two inmates orchestrated bank holdups from behind bars, and one even advised the accomplices by cell phone during a robbery, the FBI said.

Warren "Stone One" Cromety and fellow inmate Frankie "Snoop" Porter allegedly talked Cromety's stepbrother and two Akron women into committing the two robberies and sharing the proceeds with them.

Robert Fiatal, the senior agent in charge of the Akron FBI office, said he's not sure why the inmates discussed the robberies in such detail when they knew the phone calls were being taped.

"I guess they didn't think anyone would look into it," he said.

Cromety was on the phone with the getaway driver during one of the robberies, Fiatal said Thursday.

"He was telling them how to do it," he said.

The investigation began Dec. 17 when Akron police arrested Lawrence Simpson, 18, in a trash bin not far from a FirstMerit bank branch that had just been robbed.

Investigators found that Simpson was working under the instructions of Cromety at Lebanon Correctional Institution near Cincinnati, Fiatal said.

Fiatal said he did not know how much money was taken but that most of it went to pay for Cromety's attorney fees.

The arrangement is detailed in an affidavit filed in U.S. District Court in Akron, which includes transcripts of phone calls and letters among the inmates, Simpson and the two women.

The affidavit said Simpson provide police and FBI agents with information about the robberies after his arrest. Agents called the prison and requested tapes of Cromety's and Porter's phone conversations. The state's policy is to record inmates' phone calls.

"There are signs on the wall saying that calls are monitored," said Andrea Dean, spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. All calls are taped, but not all inmate conversations are reviewed, she said.

Investigators suspect that Cromety or Porter would call one of the two Akron women collect from prison. If the inmates wanted to talk to Simpson, they'd make it a three-way call. The women were not identified.

In a Nov. 4 call, according to court records, Simpson told Cromety that they were planning to rob a bank three days later. Cromety then told Simpson that a demand note and other items would be furnished for him, but he would need to get a book bag.

According to the affidavit, a series of frantic calls followed Simpson's arrest, with Porter and the two women discussing the situation, apparently in coded language.

A telephone message was left Thursday for Simpson's attorney, Jaime Serrat.

The U.S. attorney's office plans to file charges against the inmates in a couple weeks, Fiatal said.

Cromety, 26, is serving a five-year to life sentence on his 1994 conviction for attempted murder, aggravated burglary and aggravated robbery in Trumbull County.

Porter, 29, is serving 200 to 500 years for two kidnapping and four aggravated robbery convictions in Portage, Medina, Stark and Summit counties.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)