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Woman Dubbed Modern-Day Ma Barker Found Guilty In Bank Robbery Case

February 16, 1985

CHICAGO (AP) _ A mother of 11 children, described by prosecutors as a modern ″Ma Barker,″ was convicted Friday night of conspiracy and armed bank robbery for helping her son and two other men plot a $45,000 robbery of a suburban bank.

Helen Allen, 50, was found guilty by the federal jury, which had deliberated 17 hours since Wednesday.

Prosecutors said Mrs. Allen helped her son, James, 34, and two other men plan the Oct. 3 armed robbery of Thornridge State Bank in South Holland.

Michael Guzman, 36, who was tried with Mrs. Allen, was found guilty of armed bank robbery, conspiracy and a federal firearms violation.

Mrs. Allen and Guzman both wept when the verdict was returned.

Mrs. Allen faces a maximum penalty of 30 years; Guzman could be sentenced to 32 years. Sentencing was set for April 24.

Allen and Anthony Genovese, 24, pleaded guilty to the robbery. Allen is awaiting sentencing and Genovese has been sentenced to 12 years in prison.

The government alleged Mrs. Allen supplied guns and pantyhose masks to the three men, acted as their lookout, picked them up after the robbery and laundered the stained cash taken in the robbery.

But Mrs. Allen, who said she has suffered two strokes and a heart attack, testified she had no idea her son robbed a bank until he called her from a tavern to ask for a ride. She testified her son said, ″Can you cover and pick us up? We robbed a bank but we messed up.″

Evidence presented during the trial showed that after the robbery, red dye hidden in the money exploded in the getaway car.

Mrs. Allen denied that she knew her son spent the evening after the robbery in the basement of their home in Calumet City washing the money with bleach to get rid of the red dye. Prosecutors claimed she helped wash the dye off the money.

The robbery was marked by a shootout with South Holland police that occurred when the robbers got lost while making their getaway and drove back to the bank after authorities arrived to investigate the holdup.

Mrs. Allen said she did not tell authorities about her son’s role in the robbery because ″no one got hurt or killed.″

Prosecutors have likened Mrs. Allen to Kate ″Ma″ Barker, who presided over a Depression-era gang of bank robbers that included several of her sons. She and a son were slain in a shootout with FBI agents in Florida in 1935.

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