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Previous coverage | Bank robbed for third time since fall

MANATEE — A man with a receding hair line, long brownish-blond hair and a beer belly approached a teller with an open bag revealing the butt of a handgun inside.

“This is a withdrawal,” said the bank robber to a teller in an empty Fifth Third Bank lobby just before noon Tuesday.

The teller gave the robber an undisclosed amount of cash before the man left walking east of the bank at 5305 26th St. W.

A witness told Manatee County Sheriff’s Office deputies the man got into a green pickup being driven by a woman with dark hair on 25th Street West.

The man came into the bank wearing a dark sweater, grey shirt and pants. He also had sunglasses on, but later removed the glasses at the counter.

The 23- to 25-year-old man is described as being about 5 feet 8 inches tall and weighing about 180 to 200 pounds.

The same Fifth Third bank location was robbed Sept. 4 when 28-year-old Felicia S. Jones walked into the bank and demanded cash in bill denominations of $50 and $100.

Jones was convicted of one count of robbery after pleading no contest Feb. 19. She is currently in prison serving a three year sentence followed by seven years of community supervision.

The bank was robbed yet again on Nov. 29 when Edgar Stephenson, 54, of Sarasota allegedly told a teller to fill a green Publix bag with money. He left with about $700, according to an arrest warrant.

Stephenson allegedly told detectives he robbed as many as nine banks in the bay area. He is scheduled to go to trial for the Fifth Third case on July 13.

This is the third bank robbery law enforcement has responded to this month. On April 7, the sheriff’s office sent deputies to a bank robbery attempt when a man called in a bomb threat at a M&I Bank off of U.S. 301. On April 14, Bradenton Police responded to a robbery at First America Bank on Manatee Avenue West. On April 22, Palmetto Police began investigating a robbery at First Bank near the intersection of Haben Boulevard and U.S. 301.

In 2007, there were 15 bank robberies in the county. In 2008, the number of robberies doubled. This year, including two attempts, law enforcement has responded to 14 bank robberies so far this year in Manatee County.

Vocally demanding money was the most common way to rob a bank, according FBI fourth quarter statistics online.

Out of 1,167 bank robberies reported nationwide between October and December 2008, there were 946 cases — 81 percent — where robbers made oral demands.

Anyone with information about the latest robbery at Fifth Third can contact sheriff’s office Detective Jeffrey Bliss at 747-3011, ext. 2159 or remain anonymous and possibly be eligible for a cash reward by calling Crimestoppers at (866) 634-TIPS (8477).

Beth Burger, criminal justice reporter, can be reached at 708-7919.