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Family members help in bank robbery busts

MANATEE — When a detective showed her surveillance pictures of a recent bank robbery, Michael Derek Johns’ sister broke down in tears.

Her brother had just gotten out of federal prison in September after more than 10 years for robbing banks, but the pictures proved to her he was at it again, according to Manatee County Sheriff’s Office reports.

“She viewed the bank security pictures of the robbery and she broke down in tears and stated that the person in the picture was her brother, Michael Johns,” the sheriff’s detective wrote. Johns, 44, formerly known as the “Brown Bag Bandit” in the mid-1990s after a string of bank robberies, has now been arrested on two counts of bank robbery after his sister identified him. She could not be reached for comment.

“She is very upset and is willing to cooperate in this case,” the sheriff’s report said.

Johns’ girlfriend, Lori D. Davis, has also been arrested on a charge of driving a getaway car from one of two banks detectives say Johns robbed on consecutive days.

Authorities say Davis’ father also helped detectives track the couple down.

Both Johns and Davis, 34, admitted to planning robberies Thursday at a SunTrust Bank branch in the 5700 block of 14th Street West and Friday at a First Bank branch in the 400 block of 53rd Avenue West, according to sheriff’s reports.

The first break in the case came when witnesses in the SunTrust Bank robbery told detectives the suspect had left the bank in a taxi with a woman in the cab with him.

Detectives went back to where the taxi driver said he picked up his fare Thursday, and witnesses there identified Davis as the woman in the cab, according to sheriff’s report. With Davis as a suspect, investigators located Davis’ father, who told detectives his daughter had been with Johns, which led detectives to Johns’ sister, sheriff’s reports said.

After Johns’ sister identified her brother, employees of First Bank also picked his picture out of a photo lineup. It was enough for a judge to sign off on a warrant for Johns’ arrest.

On Monday, a tip led detectives to Johns and Davis, who were captured in a Days Inn motel room in the 3500 block of First Street West. Davis was initially arrested on outstanding warrants on charges of not showing up in court on a DUI charge.

She now has also been charged with one count of robbery after admitting to helping plan the robberies and driving a getaway car from the First Bank robbery. She is being held in the Manatee County jail without bond.

Johns had recently been released from federal prison after being sentenced to 11 years behind bars for five Orlando bank robberies. During a two-week rash of bank robberies in 1995 in Orlando, Johns became known as the “Brown Bag Bandit.”

Sheriff’s spokesman Dave Bristow said Johns was on federal probation at the time of the Manatee robberies and is also being investigated by federal authorities. He is being held on $2 million bond.

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