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Racine police say a Mount Pleasant man held up a loan store and threatened to kill the woman working there with a knife if she didn’t comply, saying he committed the crime because he hit hard times and he thought it was a sure thing.

Cedric Atkins was charged Wednesday in Racine County Circuit Court with a single count of felony robbery of a financial institution. If convicted, he faces up to 40 years in prison and/or up to $100,000 in fines.

According to the criminal complaint, police were called at 7:33 a.m. on April 4 to Heights Finance on Lathrop Avenue for a report of a robbery. When they arrived, the woman who worked there told them she arrived that morning to make preparations for opening the store. Someone knocked on the door, so she opened the door to find a man later identified as the defendant asking what time the store opened since it was not yet. He proceeded to ask what time it was, and when the woman turned to check a clock, he pushed her inside and pulled out a knife with a distinct curved edge.

Officers say Atkins threatened the woman by telling her he would kill her if she didn’t open the safe and give him all the money. The woman let Atkins know the store didn’t have a safe, but he didn’t believe her and ordered her to gather all the money from the drawers, the total of which came to $145.

Atkins forced the woman into the back of the store and took her cell phone, the complaint continues. He told her to count to 50 before coming out and then fled the premises. The woman waited approximately a minute before emerging to see Atkins get into an SUV for which she wrote down the license plate number. Video footage from the store confirmed the woman’s report.

Police say they tracked the vehicle to a residence in Mount Pleasant the next day, and when they observed the SUV leaving the residence, they initiated a traffic stop. The female owner of the SUV was driving and said Atkins lives with her and was using her car the morning of the robbery.

Atkins was located, according to the complaint, but he denied perpetrating the robbery because his skin condition would make him stand out on video. Police obtained a search warrant for the residence, and while they located several knives, they did not find one with a curved blade. The woman resident was shown a photo of Atkins during the robbery, and she told officers she’d seen Atkins in those clothes, including a gaitor he wore to conceal his skin condition and because of COVID.

In the end, Atkins admitted to the robbery and told police he did it because he’d just lost his job after returning home, to take care of the woman who owns the SUV, from 20 years in an Illinois prison for armed robbery, the complaint concludes. The morning of the robbery, Atkins received $300 via wire service, but it wasn’t enough, and since he didn’t have anyone else to lean on, he thought robbing the loan store would be guaranteed money. His story matched that of the employee, and Atkins added that when he saw the woman might have the license plate of the SUV, he threw everything out the window, including the money.

Atkins remains in the Racine County Jail on a $5,000 cash bond. He will next be in court on April 13 for his preliminary hearing.

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