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4 Alleged Casino Winner Robbers' Evidence on Trial

30 September 2002

JOLIET, Ilinois -- As reported by the Daily Southtown:`` For hours on end during a string of late nights last winter, a petite woman sat alone at slot machines and blackjack tables just outside the section reserved for high rollers at Harrah's Casino Joliet, carefully watching to see who won big.

``At least five times, she selected a target, met up with three accomplices in the parking garage, and followed the winners to their homes across the area to rob them in their driveways, Will County prosecutors said Friday.

``The group of four West Side Chicago residents are suspected by police of pulling at least five of the elaborate robberies. But the foursome was only charged once in Will County — for attempted robbery.

``And Cheronder Blanchard, 28, whom police claim is the woman caught on surveillance tapes staking out the high stakes section, has also been charged with armed robbery in DuPage County from a similar heist in Downers Grove.

``Defense attorneys for all four suspects were in court Friday claiming police had no right to arrest or search their clients in a sting outside a Bolingbrook apartment complex in March.

``…After the fifth incident, investigators reviewing Harrah's surveillance tapes said they noticed the victim in that case had been discreetly followed throughout the casino for hours by Blanchard. The state cops told Harrah's security to call them if Blanchard came back.

``Five days later, they gathered around video monitors for three hours and watched Blanchard at work.

``…Two nights later, with the help of a helicopter, cops were able to track Blanchard as she followed a winning gambler home to the parking lot outside his Bolingbrook apartment.

``Blanchard and her three alleged accomplices — Juan Burks, Larry Fletcher and Rommell Ratliff — were arrested at gunpoint while still inside the car.

``...Blanchard's attorney, Frank Tedesso, argued the group did nothing illegal that night and should not have been arrested.

``…Circuit Judge Daniel Rozak said he'll decide whether or not to throw out the evidence next week…"

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