Same robbers linked to series of holdups

7 robberies occcurred in the last three weeks

LUTZ, Fla. - Belinda Vasquez knows the dangers of her job.  Working as a convenient store clerk with an open counter can be a risk, as robbers often target places that stay open around the clock and have few employees.

"Of course you're nervous or scared, but you still work," Vasquez said.  "I have a family to support just like everybody else."  

Vasquez works at the 7-Eleven on 18902 N. Dale Mabry Highway near Lutz in Hillsborough County.  Her store was among four struck by an armed bandit early Tuesday morning.  Still, she was not deterred.

"I mean, if I came to work every day worrying about if somebody's going to rob me, would I wake up in the morning to come to work?  No," she said.  "I'd stay in bed."

Both the Hillsborough and Pasco County Sheriff's Offices issued alerts about the suspected robbery gang.  In addition to the four holdups Tuesday morning, the gang is being linked to three other stickups near Zephyrhills and Wesley Chapel in the last three weeks.

Still images from surveillance video cameras showed the suspect at several locations.  A black male, 5-foot 7-inches, wearing a dark gray hoodie, jeans, and a white bandana covering his face entered the store armed with a handgun.  

"The suspect approaches the clerk, makes a demand for money, and after he gets the money, they flee the store," said Debbie Carter, a Hillsborough County Sheriff's spokeswoman.

While just a single suspect is in view on the video surveillance, it's believed several others are involved, waiting in a getaway car after the robberies are completed.

Jesse Garland of Abraham's Quick Mart near Zephyrhills said he's more diligent after his store fell victim to the robber Feb. 12.  

"We just take extra precautions.  We just watch more closely who comes through the door.  And we have two people on duty most times," Garland said.

Vasquez said after her store was robbed, she made sure she was up to date on the procedures for dealing with dangerous criminals.

"Just never look them in the eye, and just give them what they want," Vasquez said.  "It's not worth your life to get just a couple of dollars."

Here's a list of locations where the robbers are suspected to have struck.

Feb. 20

Shell Station
3425 N. Lakeview Drive

18902 N. Dale Mabry Highway

23434 SR 54

Circle K
27707 SR 54
Wesley Chapel

Feb. 12

Abraham's Quick Mart
36952 SR 54

Jan. 27

29741 SR 54
Wesley Chapel

37130 Eiland Blvd.

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