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A Tampa woman pretended to have car trouble, police say.

Police have arrested a man and woman who they say are responsible for a string of armed robberies around Tampa Bay.

Detectives linked Ricky T. Fields, 24, and Stephanie S. Malatesta, 23, to 12 robberies committed since June 1, Clearwater police spokeswoman Elizabeth Watts said.

Six of those robberies were committed in Hillsborough County. The other six took place in Clearwater since June 20.

In each of the Clearwater cases, the couple targeted Hispanic men walking or riding their bicycles, Watts said.

Malatesta, of Tampa, would pretend that she was having car trouble on the side of the road.

When a man came over to assist her, Fields, of Alexandria, Va., would step out of the shadows and rob him at gunpoint, Watts said.

In a June 20 case, the victim was kicked and punched. In another, on June 23, the victim was hit over the head with a gun.

Tuesday, police responded to another reported robbery at 116 S Duncan Ave. The victim's description of the couple matched the descriptions of the suspects in the five previous Clearwater armed robbery cases.

A detective saw the couple's car and arrested them at Arcturas Avenue and Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard.

Both suspects were charged with six counts of armed robbery. Fields was also charged with aggravated battery. They are being held in the Pinellas County Jail. Fields' bail is $620,000 and Malatesta's is $600,000.

Police seized the couple's car, a 2004 black Nissan Xterra. Inside the car, they found a replica firearm and property stolen from five of the victims in Clearwater, police said.

Martine Powers can be reached at or (727) 445-4224.