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Two men sought in bank heist

Authorities say the pair also are suspected in two "suspicious person'' bank incidents in Pinellas Park.

By MARY SPICUZZA
© St. Petersburg Times
published May 31, 2002


The robber entered a SouthTrust Bank branch on U.S. 19 in Holiday on Wednesday afternoon, sporting a large gauze bandage taped over his nose and a Captain Morgan T-shirt. He handed the teller a note saying that he was armed, and left in a getaway car with a dye-stained pack of stolen money. Some of the cash was found in the abandoned car shortly after the robbery.

For many thieves, the heist wouldn't exactly be considered an enormous success. But Pasco sheriff's officials said it might have been the robber's third, and most profitable, attempt of the day.

Sheriff's officials said the Holiday robber was probably the same man who walked into the First Union bank on U.S. 19 in Pinellas Park at 9:20 on Wednesday morning, wearing a less-convincing disguise.

"He came in wearing a straw hat and fake beard," Pasco sheriff's spokesman Jon Powers said Thursday. "He fled after the teller asked him to remove his hat and beard."

Powers said the robber and his partner, the man driving the 1987 Chevrolet Celebrity getaway car, probably also made a suspicious visit to the SouthTrust Bank on Belcher Road in Clearwater on Wednesday morning. At that branch, a frustrated man with a height and weight matching the robber's fled quickly without attempting a transaction, Powers said.

"He apparently become agitated when he saw that the teller was behind bulletproof glass," Powers said.

A SouthTrust employee at the Belcher Office branch refused to comment on Wednesday's "situation."

It wasn't until later that day that the robber came up with his bandage disguise, which apparently drew less attention than the straw hat and fake beard used in the morning. At about 2:50 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon, the man entered the SouthTrust bank at 3535 U.S. 19 wearing the bandage. It hid much of his face in photographs taken by security cameras, but it wasn't convincing for long.

"No, we don't think he had an injured nose," Powers said.

Law enforcement officials are looking for a white man, 20 to 30 years old, about 5 feet 5 to 5 feet 6, about 140 pounds, with dark hair shaved on the sides -- a hairstyle known as a "fade." They suspect he no longer is wearing the bandage -- but might still be covered in reddish-orange dye.

Pasco sheriff's investigators also believe the robber and his accomplice are the same two men who purchased a Chevrolet Celebrity from a Hudson man, who told them that two men matching the pair's description paid cash for the car on Monday.

Deputies found that car, used in the Holiday robbery, abandoned at Trouble Creek and U.S. 19 shortly after the heist. The license plate had been removed, but deputies found some money stained with dye.

Despite what might have been a string of attempts, the two are only facing charges on their successful robbery in Holiday. The other two incidents are classified as "suspicious person" incidents, said Pinellas Park Police Department spokesman Sgt. Daniel Levy.

"If someone walks into a bank with a disguise on, that doesn't mean they're there to commit a crime"

-- Mary Spicuzza can be reached in west Pasco at 869-6232 or (800) 333-7505, ext. 6232. Her e-mail address is spicuzza@sptimes.com.

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