Defense takes stand today

Published April 11, 2007

TAMPA - The prosecution wrapped up its case against the men accused in the Band-Aid Bandit bank robberies Tuesday by telling jurors what they said to police after their July 20 arrest.

Rafael Rondon, 47, said he would "not admit to anything and he would not deny anything" when asked about the dozens of banks he was suspected of robbing, according to Rick Rebels, a detective with the Pinellas Park Police Department.

Rondon listed his job as a "self-employed construction worker" and said he previously was a supermarket clerk.

Rondon and his former brother-in-law, Emeregildo Roman, are charged with robbing six banks in the Tampa Bay area. They also face gun and conspiracy charges and could be sentenced to more than 100 years in prison each if found guilty.

Authorities believe Rondon is the Band-Aid Bandit, who robbed 39 banks between Sarasota and Ocala between 2000 and 2006. The bandit got his nickname because he frequently wore a bandage.

While Rondon was relatively close-lipped after his arrest, Roman was more forthcoming.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Colleen Murphy Davis called on Travis Avery, a Polk County sheriff's detective, to describe his interview with Roman after his arrest.

Avery told jurors Roman said he started robbing banks with Rondon six years ago after he was wiped out by a divorce. He called his decision stupid, Avery said.

The interview was conducted at the Haines City Police Department. Avery was accompanied by an FBI agent and a Florida Department of Law Enforcement agent.

Roman's attorney, Terry Christian, asked why the interview wasn't recorded. Avery said another member of the law enforcement task force decided not to tape interviews with either suspect.

Defense witnesses are scheduled to testify today.

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