The tips provided solid evidence. The tapes help put the suspect in jail.
Now, four area men have been recognized for their part in capturing a suspect in one of the bay area's most notorious crime sprees, the Band-Aid Bandit bank robberies.
Wilfredo Ramos, Lincoln Learned, Kevin Barnum, and David Wagner received the Pinellas Park Police Department's Citizen's Gold Shield Award and were honored at a recent City Council meeting.
In early July, Ramos and Learned, two warehousemen on break from work at Victor Distributing, noticed a brown 1999 Chevrolet Blazer parked in the lot of the heating and cooling part warehouse at 11125 49th St. N.
Then on July 13, the Fifth Third Bank across the street was robbed.
"It was probably the brown Blazer in the parking lot," Ramos joked to co-workers, figuring it was just a coincidence. Until he was summoned to the front office, where he was met by police.
Investigators, now comprised of the FBI and a statewide Band-Aid Bandit Task Force, were canvassing neighboring businesses for information.
Ramos and Learned stepped forward.
Police then asked Kevin Barnum, vice president of Victor Distributing, and David Wagner of Velocity IQ, a Clearwater technology company, to review surveillance tapes from cameras angled at the warehouse parking lot.
What they found after reviewing six weeks of tape was a suspicious brown Blazer and a 2005 Chrysler 300C that didn't belong to any company employees.
Using Velocity IQ technology, they were able to read the license plates of the SUV. The plates came back to Rafael Angel Rondon, who was then arrested on July 20, accused of being the Band-Aid Bandit. One of his relatives also was arrested, suspected of being his accomplice.
The men face federal armed robbery and firearm charges. If convicted, Rondon faces a maximum of 282 years in prison, said Steve Cole, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office.
All told, the two are suspected of stealing nearly $500,000 from 39 banks throughout west-central Florida.
Pinellas Park police spokesman Capt. Sandy Forseth credited the men for their role in capturing a suspect who authorities say eluded capture in up to 41 attempted robberies.
"Without witnesses willing to come forward ... a lot of these crimes would go unsolved," he said. "We cannot do it by ourselves."
Casey Cora can be reached at (727) 392-2374 or at email@example.com.