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"Band-Aid Bandit' back, robs bank

(ran SS edition of METRO & STATE)

Seconds after the surveillance tape from the bank robbery started to roll, the watching Hillsborough County sheriff's corporal shut it off, stunned at what he saw.

"I can't believe he's back," he said, according to agency spokesman Lt. Rod Reder.

After more than a year's hiatus, it appeared Tuesday that the robber known as the Band-Aid Bandit had returned.

A man fitting his description robbed two tellers at gunpoint about 1:30 p.m. at the Wachovia Bank at 7919 N Gunn Highway, the Sheriff's Office said.

He entered the bank armed with a silver handgun and fled after the robbery in a gray vehicle, possibly a Plymouth, driven by another person, the Sheriff's Office said.

The Band-Aid Bandit held up more than 30 banks between 2000 and 2003, most of them in the Tampa Bay area. He got his nickname because he usually wore a bandage on his left cheek. He also had been joined by an accomplice in past stickups.

Reder said investigators thought his last heist was in Sarasota about two years ago, but officials in Citrus County last year said they suspected he was one of the men who robbed the Capital City Bank branch in Inverness in May 2003.

Before he disappeared, the bandit's actions had become more brazen, Reder said.

He is considered armed and dangerous.

"This guy really worries us about the possibility of hurting somebody," Reder said.

As with past heists by the bandit, the bank robber on Tuesday wore a wig and a false mustache. He was described as a heavyset Hispanic male, about 200 pounds, between 5 feet 6 and 5 feet 7, wearing a yellow T-shirt and jeans.

Following his last rash of robberies, investigators and the Florida Bankers Association offered a $25,000 reward for details leading to the arrest and conviction of the robbers.

Anyone with information can call Crime Stoppers toll-free at 1-800-873-8477 or the Sheriff's Office at (813) 247-8200.

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