Tuesday, January 23, 2018
Public safety

Deputies arrest Pasco man accused in string of bank robberies

TAMPA — A man wanted in a string of Tampa Bay area bank robberies, and who previously did time in federal prison for the same crime, was arrested Tuesday in a coordinated effort between authorities in Hillsborough and Pasco counties.

Thomas John Nelson, 33, of New Port Richey was out on bail after an October arrest in Pasco on a bank robbery charge when he committed at least two more similar heists in Hillsborough, authorities said.

On Nov. 7, Nelson donned a full-face motorcycle helmet and walked into a Bank of America branch at 13829 W Hillsborough Ave., deputies said. He demanded money from a teller and fled on a black motorcycle, deputies said.

On Dec. 7, he struck again at the Bank of America at 13080 Race Track Road while wearing a fake beard, a ball cap and sunglasses, deputies said.

Detectives identified Nelson as a suspect in the robberies. He had an arrest warrant in Polk County for failure to appear on a charge of grand theft. Detectives worked to track him down and learned that it wasn't the first time he had been accused of robbing banks.

Back in 1999 and 2000, Nelson, then 19, was twice arrested in a string of robberies, according to records. He was later convicted and sent to federal prison. He was released in 2006.

On Tuesday, detectives learned that Nelson was headed to a Target store at State Road 54 and Suncoast Parkway in Pasco, authorities said. Deputies from both Pasco and Hillsborough set up surveillance on the store. At 5:30 p.m., they spotted Nelson, who walked into the store with his wife and child, deputies said. When he walked back out, he was arrested.

Nelson was booked into the Pasco County Jail and held without bail.

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