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Dapper bank robber eludes capture

MANATEE — A man with a neatly trimmed beard and dressed in a dark business suit and tie robbed a southern Manatee County bank Monday.

The man — described as between 40 and 50 years old, 6 feet tall and weighing 200 pounds, with black hair and black beard — walked into the Orion Bank branch at 2815 University Parkway at about 12:05 p.m. Monday, according to David Bristow, spokesman for the Manatee County Sheriff’s office.

“This was a little different than other bank robberies in the county,” Bristow said. “The guy was wearing a suit.”

The man approached the teller and said he needed to make a deposit.

He then placed a blue soft-sided nylon briefcase on the counter and demanded money. A teller put an undisclosed amount of money in his bag, and the man walked out of the bank. No weapon was shown.

A bank customer saw the robber leave and walk across the parking lot.

Another witness told investigators a man fitting the description of the bank robber was seen getting into a newer model, dark-colored sports utility vehicle, possibly a GMC Envoy or Nissan Xterra, with tinted windows that was parked in the Publix parking lot next to the bank. The vehicle had a white license plate with blue lettering.

Bristow said investigators were working to apprehend the suspect.

“We’ve got very good pictures from the surveillance cameras,” he said. “We hope once we get those pictures out we’ll get some information from the public.”

Monday’s bank robbery was the sixth in Manatee County since the beginning of the year.

In 2007, there were 15 bank robberies. Last year, that number doubled.

Bristow did not want to speculate on whether the uptick in bank robberies has anything to do with the economic downturn.

“But you can’t say it’s not,” he said.

“You have to wait until a suspect is caught, then find out the reason during the interrogation.

“It certainly could be because someone lost a job and needed money,” Bristow said.

Bradenton Police Department detectives recently arrested a woman who is suspected of robbing several banks in the Manatee and Sarasota counties area.

Michele Blalock, of Cortez, confessed to five bank robberies after she was apprehended in February.

According to a police report, Blalock said she used the money to support a prescription drug addiction she developed after a car crash and to meet the needs of her family.

Female bank robbers are fairly uncommon, according to FBI statistics released in the third quarter of 2008 on the agency’s Web site.

Out of 1,694 people involved with bank robberies across the country, 102 of the robbers were women.

The recent robberies in Manatee County area include:

n 2 p.m. Jan. 30, Fifth Third Bank, 6600 block of Manatee Avenue West

n 1 p.m. Feb. 4, Fifth Third Bank, 6600 block of Cortez Road West

n 12:30 p.m. Feb. 4 , M&I Bank, 5500 block of Manatee Avenue West (attempted)

n Noon Feb. 10, Bank of America, 5400 block of Fruitville Road, Sarasota

n 1 p.m. Saturday, Bank of America, 3400 block of Cortez Road.

Anyone with information on Monday’s bank robbery can call the sheriff’s office at (941) 747-3011 or Crime Stoppers at (866) 634-TIPS.

— Herald staff reporters Robert Napper and Beth Burger contributed to this report.

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