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Employee foils plans of would-be store robber

By Times staff writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published December 22, 2000

BRANDON -- Two people who reported for work Thursday morning at a check-cashing store found someone waiting on them when they unlocked the door: a would-be robber who had cut through walls to get there.

Hillsborough Sheriff's spokesman Sgt. Rod Reder said a man wearing a ski mask pried open the door of a patio furniture store directly behind Ace Check Cashing at 1355 W Brandon Blvd. Once inside, Reder said, the man used a sharp tool to cut through the drywall separating the two businesses. Then he waited.

About 8:30 a.m., janitor Alex Cantres and Ace employee Diana Matos arrived for work. When they entered the store, the man pulled a gun, Reder said. With the gun trained on Matos, the suspect bound Cantres' hands with duct tape and put him on the floor. Then he began threatening Matos with the gun.

What the suspect didn't know, Reder said, was that Matos had set off the store's silent alarm, alerting the sheriff. When a deputy pulled into the parking lot less than a minute later, the suspect ran out of the store the same way he'd come in. Deputies searched the area but couldn't find him.

Matos and Cantres told deputies the suspect was a black man in his 20s, slim, wearing black Tommy Hilfiger jeans and a black ski mask.

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