Inmates Charged With Coordinating Bank Robberies

CLEVELAND (AP) - A federal grand jury on Tuesday indicted two inmates accused of orchestrating bank holdups through a prison phone.

Prosecutors say Warren Cromety thought up the scheme so he could afford an attorney to win an appeal to get him out of prison.

Cromety, his stepbrother and three others face conspiracy charges involving the robberies of two FirstMerit banks in Akron.

The robbers are accused of stealing $27,000.

Cromety, 27, of Warren, and his friend, Frankie Porter, are serving sentences in the Lebanon Correctional Institution for murder and robbery, respectively.

Prosecutors say Cromety recruited Lawrence Simpson, his 19-year-old half brother, to pull off the robbery. Porter, 29, also wanted to get out, so he rounded up his girlfriend Rhonda Hughes and Tonya Ferguson to help. The two women, both 29, are from Porter's home town of Akron.

In letters and phone conversations, the two prisoners organized the robberies for Nov. 7 and Dec. 17, according to prosecutors.

Porter used a prison phone and talked with the women on a cell phone while the first robbery was taking place. Prosecutors said he reminded them "to remain cool" during the heist.

The plan fell apart when an off-duty officer spotted Simpson, of Warren, in the bank Dec. 17. He ran and was later arrested in a trash container. The women were arrested in January.

The attempt marked the second time Cromety tried to get out of prison. He went through the gates of Trumbull Correctional Institution in 1995 with three other inmates. They were arrested hours later.

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