Two men believed to have robbed a string of businesses in the past three months may have pulled their last holdup, police say.
The duo was arrested following the robbery of a Taco Time restaurant Friday morning."We believe the two individuals are responsible for 15 to 18 or maybe more robberies in the area," said Salt Lake County Sheriff Aaron Kennard.
Several police agencies have increased patrols and surveillance units in recent weeks in hopes of catching the elusive bandits that have robbed various businesses in Salt Lake County since Jan. 4.
In most of the cases, the bandit covered his head with a white ski mask or pillow case and wore dark goggles over his eyes. He would also wear a green army-type jacket and gloves and would often retrieve the money himself from the drawers or registers where it was stored. Many of the robberies occurred at or near the businesses' closing time.
Kennard said the two men are believed to have taken turns dressing in the disguise and conducting the robberies.
Police officers nicknamed the robber the "goggle bandit" and the "condom bandit" because of the outfit. But detectives were frustrated because the disguise made the culprits so unidentifiable.
About 1:30 a.m. Friday, a man wearing a similar disguise robbed Taco Time, 919 E. 4500 South. The suspect was standing outside the rear door of the business when a 22-year-old woman opened the door to empty the garbage.
The robber demanded money, and when the employee began to cry, he said, "Don't worry. You're doing all right," a sheriff's report stated. When the women opened the safe, he said, "Give it all to me," and placed the money bags in an apron.
The robber then pulled out the cash register drawer, possibly took some money from it and then left the restaurant on foot.
The victims called the sheriff's office, and a description of the bandit was broadcast on police radios. Sheriff's detective Larry Turpin was patrolling the area when he heard the broadcast and spotted a vehicle westbound on 3900 South near 800 East. He noticed that a passenger in the car was wearing a green parka.
"It was a quick-thinking move by the vice detective," said Kennard. "He was attentive to the activity that was on the road."
Turpin stopped the vehicle at 3530 S. 700 East and observed a gun sticking out from underneath the seat. He then arrested both men in the vehicle.
The two suspects were questioned by investigators from the Salt Lake police, the sheriff's office and the FBI. Salt Lake police spokesman Sgt. Scott Atkinson said detectives believe the men are responsible for the robberies of Payless Car Rental on March 2 and a Smith's store on March 15.
"We think they're responsible for more, but we haven't been able to prove it," he said.
FBI agents are looking into the possibility that the duo may be responsible for armed robberies at a bank and a credit union on Jan. 10 and Feb. 7, said spokesman Keith Bennett.
Detectives conducted four search warrants Friday afternoon. One was served at the South Jordan home where the suspects live. The other three searches were for vehicles believed to have been used in the robberies. The vehicles were registered to the South Jordan home.
"We feel we did recover some items that will help us solve some of the other crimes," said Sheriff's Detective Darrell Ondrak.
Kennard said deputies recovered a BB gun that looked like a semi-automatic handgun. An outfit similar to the one used in many of the robberies was also recovered, he said.
Richard Morgan Owens, 19, of South Jordan, and Phillip Joseph Francis, 31, of Ogden, were booked into the Salt Lake County Jail Friday for investigation of aggravated robbery.
Investigators from several police agencies are expected to meet Monday to compare notes in the cases.