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Police say serial bank robber, accomplice jailed

TAMPA — Johnnie Freeman was the master of disguise, police say.

One time, the 45-year-old glued patches of hair to his skin so he resembled a werewolf.

"We were one step ahead of him," Tampa police spokeswoman Janelle McGreggor said.

Freeman was a "serial bank robber," McGreggor said. And he was booked into jail on Wednesday, following a multi-agency investigation into several robberies throughout Hillsborough County.

Tampa police say Freeman, of 9602 E Fowler Ave. in Tampa, robbed $50,000 from Regions and Synovus banks on Oct. 24 and Nov. 28.

Hillsborough sheriff's deputies say he is also responsible for robberies at a Brandon BB&T bank on Nov. 7, Sweetbay at 11230 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. in Tampa on Nov. 11, and Momentum Bank at 15150 N Florida Ave. in Tampa on Nov. 19.

He is also charged with an attempted robbery at Colonial Bank on Nov. 28.

In each incident investigated by Tampa police, Freeman entered the bank dressed in costumes and held employees at gunpoint while demanding money from a teller, McGreggor said.

Freeman's girlfriend, Melissa Nicolau, 30, of 5417 Mobile Drive in Seffner, stood watch and drove the getaway vehicle, McGreggor said.

They are also accused of robberies in Temple Terrace.

Freeman was booked into the Orient Road Jail, where he was held without bail. He faces multiple charges of robbery, armed kidnapping, armed robbery, being a felon in possession of a firearm and grand theft.

Nicolau was charged with robbery from the Hillsborough sheriff's investigation. But Tampa police said she will also face two counts of armed kidnapping and two counts of robbery with a firearm.

Assisting in the investigation were Temple Terrace police, Plant City police and the FBI.

During a search of Freeman's home, detectives seized a loaded gun, beards and wigs. Freeman and Nicolau admitted to both Tampa bank robberies along with five others during an interview with a Tampa police detective, McGreggor said.

Rebecca Catalanello can be reached at rcatalanello@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3383.

Police say serial bank robber, accomplice jailed 12/11/08 [Last modified: Monday, December 22, 2008 10:19am]

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