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Tip leads to bank holdup suspect

A transient is arrested at a park in Clearwater and charged.

A call that robbery detectives received through the Crime Stoppers tip line last week has led to the arrest of a local transient who was charged with the Nov. 30 holdup of a Palm Harbor bank.

James Franklin Thompson, 57, was arrested about 4 p.m. Tuesday at Crest Lake Park in Clearwater and charged with armed bank robbery, according to Marianne Pasha, spokeswoman for the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office.

Detectives say Thompson, who has family members in the area but was living out of his car, entered the Southtrust bank, 600 East Lake Road, about 10:25 a.m., then handed a teller a note demanding money. He implied that he had a handgun and left with about $1,300 cash, according to an arrest report.

Detectives released a surveillance photo taken during the bank robbery by a camera behind the teller's counter. The photo was published and broadcast by local media, Pasha said. That led to an anonymous tipster calling the Crime Stoppers tip line with information leading investigators to Thompson, Pasha said.

"It was a good tip and it worked out," she said.

Crime Stoppers offers rewards of up to $1,000 for people who call authorities with information about crimes. The organization allows callers to remain anonymous.

Thompson also had been wanted on two arrest warrants. One was for violating the guidelines of the probation he received for a misdemeanor charge. The other was for failure to appear in court on a drunken driving charge, Pasha said.

Pasha said Thompson told investigators that he robbed the bank. He said he had been out of work recently and needed the money. He picked the Southtrust bank because he had worked in that area in the past and was familiar with the bank, the spokeswoman said.