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North Pinellas bank robber proves elusive

A serial bank robber who appears to be wearing a fake beard has struck at least four times in Pinellas County since early March, and authorities are hoping the public can help identify the man.

The man is suspected in three robberies in March and one in April.

Sheriff's detectives are also investigating a May 8 robbery at one of the same banks that involves a man who fits the description, but have not confirmed it was the same person.

The man is described as black, between 5 foot 8 and 6 foot 2. In nearly all of the stickups, authorities have described him as being in his mid- to late-30s.

The man often wears a hooded sweatshirt or jacket and a baseball cap or knit hat. He has used the handgun in some robberies, but not others. No one has been injured. In at least two of the robberies, he fled in a vehicle; in others, on foot.

On March 2, the man handed a note that demanded money to a teller at a Wachovia Bank at 2515 West Bay Drive in Belleair Bluffs and left with an undisclosed amount of cash, officials said.

Police believe the same man struck again at a Bank United at 629 S Fort Harrison Ave. in Clearwater on March 27. In that case, the man flashed a silver semiautomatic handgun and ran away. A dye pack inserted by a bank employee exploded and was discarded nearby, Clearwater police said.

Four days later, the man again brandished a silver semiautomatic during the holdup of a Wachovia at 1551 S Belcher Road in Clearwater.

On April 15, the man robbed a Bank of America at 2200 Belleair Road in Clearwater, but witnesses did not report seeing a gun, according to Clearwater police.

On May 8, the West Bay Drive Wachovia was hit again. In that case, the robber used a gun and fled in a dark-colored, four-door car.

The Sheriff's Office declined to comment on how much money the man has gotten away with, citing the ongoing investigation.

Officials are asking anyone with information to call Pinellas County Sheriff's Office Detective Jeremy Nygren at (727) 582-6200 or the Clearwater Police Department tip line at (727) 562-4422. To remain anonymous, call Crime Stoppers toll free at 1-800-873-8477.

Rita Farlow can be reached at farlow@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4157.

North Pinellas bank robber proves elusive 05/12/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 12, 2009 9:57pm]
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