'Band-Aid Bandit' leaves police stuck


Published: Saturday, January 7, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 7, 2006 at 3:13 a.m.
He's been seen wearing a Band-Aid on his face. Other times, it's been gauze or tape. And sometimes, he wore nothing.
But there's one thing the elusive "Band-Aid Bandit" makes sure to do 100 percent of the time: He doesn't get caught.
The phantom bandit, who got his moniker for the Band-Aid he wears to possibly cover moles or scars or to throw his victims off, has robbed 38 banks from Gainesville to Sarasota and tried to rob two others, said Ray Velboom, a Special Agent supervisor with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. The bandit also has an unknown accomplice who has participated in some of the robberies.
The robber, who has swiped more than half a million dollars, has been on the bank-heisting spree for five years and shows no signs of stopping, Velboom said. A majority of the heists occurred in the greater Tampa area, Velboom said. Investigators say they have no idea who the robber is despite plastering his face in newspapers, on TV and on the Internet.
"We don't have a smoking gun," Velboom said of the FDLE's attempts to catch the bandit. "At first, he started walking into the banks, showed the gun and asked for money. Now he's using the gun to force people to the ground. We're trying to stop him before the violence escalates."
Although investigators say the robber has become more brazen recently, he has yet to hurt anyone or fire the gun.
The geographic distances between the banks and the time lapse between the robberies has made it difficult and "frustrating" for law enforcement to catch the robber and his accomplice, who may or may not even live in the state, Velboom said.
On the morning of Sept. 16, 2003, the bandit (sans the Band-Aid) walked into the Florida Citizen's Bank at 3518 Archer Road in Gainesville with an accomplice, according to incident reports. Armed with handguns and wearing fake beards and glasses, the robbers stole an undisclosed amount of cash and bolted before deputies arrived.
It is the only Alachua County bank to fall prey to the robber, but local investigators say they're on the lookout should he decide to strike again, Sheriff's Office spokesman Sgt. Keith Faulk said Thursday.
"We've only had one robbery in the county, so our involvement in the investigation is pretty limited at this point," Faulk said. "We've processed our crime scene and turned over everything to the FDLE. It's their investigation and it's up to them to put the puzzle pieces together."
The description of the robber and his accomplice is as vague as their whereabouts.
The Band-Aid Bandit is a Hispanic male, 30 to 40 years old, medium build, 5 feet 7 inches to 6 feet tall, about 220 pounds and has a protruding beer gut. He also is said to have a skin discoloration, possibly vitiligo, on his hands and forearms, investigators said. The bandit's sidekick is also a Hispanic male, 25 to 30 years old, 5 feet 8 inches to 5 feet 10 inches tall, and between 160 to 170 pounds.
The men have been spotted wearing an array of disguises (besides the Band-Aid) such as wigs, fake mustaches and ball caps. The getaway vehicle is believed to be a four-door silver or gray Buick, according to the FBI.
Aside from stealing cash, the Band-Aid Bandit also has stolen the media spotlight. The story and grainy black and white surveillance images of the dark-haired, pot-bellied bandit has appeared on major news broadcast outlets, in dozens of newspapers and on America's Most Wanted, a TV show dedicated to capturing the nation's most notorious and dangerous criminals.
Investigators say they've exhausted every lead trying to find the Band-Aid Bandit, but they're not giving up.
A $47,500 reward - including a $1,000 contribution from the Alachua County Crime Stoppers - for information leading to the arrest of the bandit is quickly approaching the FDLE's overall goal of $50,000, FDLE Special Agent Steve Davenport said.
The only thing Velboom said he knows for sure about the Band-Aid Bandit is that he isn't through yet.
"You can't predict when he's going to hit," Velboom said.
Deborah Ball can be reached at (352) 338-3109.

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