Snitching: That's Where The Money Is

IT TOOK EIGHT YEARS TO SNAG Johnny Madison Williams Jr., a robber who hit 56 banks for close to $900,000. The break came when banks in California, Texas, and Washington State ponied up reward money for tips. Four months after Williams' conviction, an anonymous tipster got $40,000 on May 3 for helping the feds find Williams, a.k.a. "The Shootist." (He liked to shoot up bank ceilings.)

That's quite a payday, since rewards average around $1,000. Even so, bounties and informant phone lines such as "We Tip" are credited with slashing bank heists. In Southern California alone, they plummeted to 1,200 in 1994 from 2,641 in 1992.

At Wells Fargo, rewards have also been used to combat frauds such as bad checks. Program director Lisa Wilhelm says the bank has saved at least $12 million since 1991.

As for Williams, he's behind bars serving a 92-year sentence.