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    Call helps police name bank robbery suspect

    By TAMARA LUSH and CHRIS TISCH

    © St. Petersburg Times, published February 24, 2001


    NEW PORT RICHEY -- A nationwide manhunt is under way for a thief who robbed seven banks in nine days in Pasco and Pinellas counties, police said.

    Police identified the man as Darrin C. Dillon, 37, and believe he is driving a silver, 1992 Ford Taurus with West Virginia license plate 7AG843 -- the same car officers said he drove away from several robberies.

    Dillon is responsible for robbing banks in New Port Richey, Holiday, Port Richey, Tarpon Springs and Largo, authorities said Friday. He served time for robbing at least one bank in Kentucky, officers said.

    "He's brazen," said Pasco County Sheriff's Sgt. Charles Calhoun. "He goes in, non-disguised. He just doesn't care, obviously."

    Dillon is considered armed and dangerous, and police urge anyone who has seen him to contact their local law enforcement agency.

    Largo police Detective Steve McMullen said an anonymous woman from Pasco County called him Thursday night and told him about Dillon. The woman called after seeing in the St. Petersburg Times surveillance photos from a bank robbery.

    Investigators found a last-known address on Cape Cod Drive in New Port Richey, but Dillon's wife said she kicked him out on Valentine's Day, McMullen said.

    He robbed a bank in Tarpon Springs that day and two in Pasco the day after, investigators say.

    Authorities were in the process of obtaining a warrant late Friday for Dillon's arrest on bank robbery charges. They believe he robbed two banks in Pinellas County: the AmSouth Bank, 40786 U.S. 19, Tarpon Springs, on Feb. 14, and the First Union Bank, 801 West Bay Drive, Largo, on Wednesday.

    The Pasco banks robbed were: Republic Bank, 6600 Massachusetts Ave., New Port Richey, on Feb. 13; SunTrust Bank at 1424 Seven Springs Blvd., New Port Richey, on Feb. 15; SouthTrust Bank at 3535 U.S. 19 in Holiday on Feb 15; Bank of America at 2123 U.S. 19 in Holiday on Tuesday and the Union Planters Bank at 9431 U.S. 19 in Port Richey on Tuesday.

    A woman who lives near the Bank of America in Holiday said she saw the robber drive down her street in the silver Taurus, trying to open a bag of money, when a red dye pack exploded. He threw red-stained cash out of the car's window, detectives said.

    McMullen said witnesses picked Dillon's photograph out of a lineup as the man who held them up Wednesday.

    McMullen said Dillon was convicted at least once for bank robbery in Kentucky. He said he believes Dillon at one time worked as a telemarketer. He didn't know how long he had been in Florida.

    On Jan. 11, Pasco County Sheriff's deputies arrested Dillon for petty larceny, according to Florida Department of Law Enforcement records.

    McMullen said he has noticed that bank surveillance photos show the robber has thinned from the time he committed his first robbery to his last. That tells him that the robber probably has a drug problem, likely crack cocaine, and is using the cash he steals to fuel the habit.

    "He could be on some type of substance," he said.

    Dillon's wife told investigators that he could be heading out of state, Largo officials said.

    McMullen said he wasn't sure why the robber decided to hold up the Largo bank. Most of his holdups were close to home.

    "If you put (Dillon's) house on Cape Cod Drive in New Port Richey on a map and tack the locations of the bank robberies, they are like a 5-mile radius from his house," McMullen said. "Based on that, you would think he likes to stay near home.

    "He passed a lot of banks on his way to Largo," he added. "Why he's here (in Largo) and all that, I don't know."

    - Times researcher Cathy Wos contributed to this report.

    About the suspect

    Darrin C. Dillon is a 37-year-old white man. He has brown eyes and brown hair worn in a ponytail. He is 6 feet 3 and weighs 200 pounds. He has numerous tattoos on both arms and his back. He drives a silver, 1992 Ford Taurus station wagon with West Virginia tag number 7AG843. He is believed to be armed and dangerous. People with information about his whereabouts should call their local law enforcement agency.

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