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Jury told of accused bandits' bounty

Evidence found in the homes of the men on trial in the Band-Aid Bandit cases is detailed.

By CARRIE WEIMAR
Published April 7, 2007


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TAMPA - The pristine white couches in the living room were accented with throw pillows in a brown geometric pattern and shiny brass lamps.

The game room featured a large-screen television and a new pool table. And the kitchen boasted a huge stainless steel refrigerator, wood cabinets and granite counters.

Jurors on Friday viewed pictures taken during a July 20 search of Rafael Rondon's suburban Orlando home as part of his trial in U.S. District Court.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Colleen Murphy Davis said the new furniture bolstered the prosecution's claim that Rondon is the Band-Aid Bandit, who authorities say robbed 39 banks in the Tampa Bay area between 2000 and 2006.

Rondon and his former brother-in-law, Emeregildo Roman, are being tried in U.S. District Court on bank robbery, gun and conspiracy charges. If convicted, they could be sentenced to more than 100 years in prison each.

Law enforcement agents testified Friday about the large amount of evidence found at both homes during the July 20 search.

At Rondon's tan stucco house, officers found a cooler filled with wigs, false mustaches, a silver revolver, ski masks, baseball caps and $84,116 in cash, most of it still in straps that read "Fifth Third Bank."

Investigators initially reported finding bandages in the cooler, but Murphy Davis said Friday those were in a closet.

At Roman's home, they discovered a large gray plastic container that held more than $90,000, also in bank straps. They also found a black revolver stashed in a golf bag.

But one key piece of evidence was more elusive.

Agents found the brown Chevrolet Blazer witnesses saw leaving the robbery of the Fifth Third bank in Pinellas Park in Rondon's garage.

But the tires on the Blazer at the robbery had distinctive white lettering. Those at Rondon's home did not.

Special Agent Fred Harden of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, told jurors that connecting the Blazer to the robbery would be important to the case.

So Harden began canvassing the area for tire stores. His search paid off in Mineola, a little town not far from Rondon's home in Clermont.

Not only did the store's owner identify Rondon, he said he sold him a new set of tires on July 13, the day of the robbery, Harden said.

The store owner also had Rondon's old set, Harden said. Murphy Davis showed jurors a picture of the tires.

They had distinctive white lettering.

Carrie Weimar can be reached at 813 226-3416 or cweimar@sptimes.com.

[Last modified April 7, 2007, 06:18:57]


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