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Two men arrested after police chase in robbery of cab driver

Police say their crime wave began when they stole a taxi and ended after they rammed it into a curb.

By CHRIS TISCH
Published August 12, 2003

CLEARWATER - First, they slipped a belt around the cab driver's throat and pulled. Then they beat him, reached for his money and forced him from the taxi. Then they took his cab.

But their day of crime was not yet complete.

Clearwater police say a pair of young men were responsible for a short crime wave in the city early Sunday morning.

Ryan A. Lehan, 18, of Clearwater and Nathan T. Blisard, 20, of Dunedin were arrested and charged with multiple crimes, including attempted robbery and carjacking, police said.

At about 6 a.m. Sunday, the pair called Yellow Cab and asked for a taxi to pick them up at Lehan's home, 204 S Jupiter Ave., police said. Cab driver Charles Sanflippo, 51, arrived to give them a ride.

After picking the two up, Sanflippo pulled onto Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard, but he was concerned that the pair wouldn't be able to pay their fare.

As Sanflippo began questioning the men about payment, police said, Blisard wrapped a belt around his neck. Then Lehan moved to the front seat and began beating Sanflippo and demanding money, police said.

The pair chased Sanflippo out of his car, continuing to beat him, police said. They returned to the taxi and took off, police said.

Sanflippo suffered cuts and bruises on his face. He worked part of the day Monday but did not return a message seeking comment.

After commandeering the cab, the pair drove to the area of Keystone Avenue and Rainbow Drive, where they began tailgating a 55-year-old Clearwater woman, police said.

With Blisard at the wheel, the cab cut off the woman, police said. Blisard then jumped out of the cab, ran back to her car, reached inside and demanded money, police said. The woman backed up and drove away.

"She had the presence of mind to put her car in reverse and get away from them," police said.

Minutes after receiving calls that a robbery had occurred, police saw the taxi at the intersection of Palmetto Street and N Saturn Avenue.

The car led officers on a pursuit through the city that reached 80 mph on rain-slicked streets, according to arrest reports.

The cab bumped over curbs and even led officers down a set of railroad tracks. The car eventually hit a curb and stopped. The pair ran, but officers caught them.

Blisard was arrested on two counts of attempted robbery and single counts each of carjacking, fleeing police and driving with a suspended license. He was being held at the Pinellas County jail Monday in lieu of $220,000 bail. Blisard is facing multiple burglary counts after an arrest in January.

Lehan was arrested on charges of carjacking and attempted robbery and was being held at the jail in lieu of $200,000 bail. He also is facing other criminal counts, including drug possession and violently resisting police, court records show.

[Last modified August 12, 2003, 01:32:34]


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