Search Widens for 'Band-Aid' Bank Robber

Apr. 19--Investigators know what Florida's most notorious bank robber looks like. They just can't get enough leads.

Consider the details: his sizable belly droops from open button-up shirts. His forearms have white splotches -- his skin is losing pigmentation because of a disorder called vitiligo. He is calm, even affable. He wears cheesy disguises and, for some reason, usually wears a bandage on his left cheek.

But even a segment on the TV show America's Most Wanted failed to provide credible leads.

All of the 38 banks the "Band-Aid Bandit" is believed to have robbed during the past six years are in Florida's west-central region -- spanning Sarasota, Tampa and Ocala metro areas.

Stymied investigators visited South Florida on Tuesday to raise awareness of the case, hoping he may hail from the region.

The geography seems natural. The robber speaks Spanish. All of the 38 banks are near major interstates.

"We've been unsuccessful in the Tampa and Central Florida area in generating many viable leads," said Florida Department of Law Enforcement Special Agent Steve Davenport.

FDLE and the FBI stressed there is a $50,000 reward for the robber's capture. The case has so vexed law enforcement agencies that they have plastered his likeness on billboards and started a public-awareness website:

The robber has at least one accomplice who looks similar. Agents believe a third person may be a get-away driver.

At an afternoon press conference, agents displayed what amounts to an evolution chart of surveillance camera stills.

The robber started off in 2000 in Lakeland. Looking thinner and grinning, he wore a plaid jacket, a baseball cap and sunglasses. He began by patiently waiting in line, flashing a gun from inside his jacket and demanding money.

He is middle-aged, medium height, and weighs from 200 to 240 pounds. His signature left-cheek bandage may hide a skin blemish. Or it's just a distraction.

In recent years, another man has appeared on bank cameras.

The second man is rougher with victims. Robberies have become more violent. He is described as middle-aged, about five feet eight inches to six feet tall, between 180 and 200 pounds.

Both have worn genuinely comical disguises.

In the last robbery in December, the Band-Aid Bandit wore a shaggy wig and mustache in almost a parody of a bad 1970s cop show.

In October, his cohort wore an ultra-cool black jacket, big shades and Fu Manchu mustache, like the lead singer of some rock en espanol band.

"Sometimes I think they're fake mustaches," Davenport said. "Other times I think they're real mustaches."

In all, agents say the robbers have made off with at least $500,000.

The two speak to each other in Spanish. One witness swore it was a Puerto Rican lilt -- the Tampa area has a sizable Puerto Rican population -- although agents say the accents may be faked.

Anyone with information can call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-873-8477 or the Band-Aid Task Force at 813-874-6028.

[Miami Herald, The (KRT) -- 04/20/06]