Two arrested in Hard Rock Casino robberies

January 20th, 2010 by

TAMPA, Florida (WTSP)- Two Orlando-area men are in custody after a string of robberies of Seminole Hard Rock Casino-goers.

According to Tampa Police, one of the suspects – Edgardo Rivera, 31 – confessed to following three people home from the casino over the course of two weeks and robbing each one.

He said the second suspect – Christopher Neff, 27 – helped him with two of the robberies. Neff denied his involvement, but was charged after one of the victims picked him out of a lineup.

Tampa Police are still looking for a third suspect believed to be involved in the robberies.

The first robbery took place on Jan. 9, when the suspects allegedly followed former USF basketball player Aris Williams, 23, to his New Tampa home. He was robbed at gunpoint, but provided police with a description of the suspect’s maroon 2001 Honda Accord, including a partial tag number.

Rivera confessed to two more robberies – an unidentified Polk Co. victim, then Dayananda Punchihewa, 67, in Clearwater. Punchihewa was attacked with a stun gun to the face and shoulder, then robbed at gunpoint.

Police at the casino had been looking for the Honda Accord since the first robbery and spotted it back at the casino after the third robbery.

After interviewing the suspects, Hillsborough Co. Sheriff deputies obtained a search warrant for their vehicle and found a stun gun, a hand gun, and some of the victims’ belongings. They were arrested and face charges of home invasion robbery, aggravated battery, and use of a firearm in commission of a felony.

The suspects are currently being held at the Hillsborough County Jail.

“This kind of thing is really, really unusual,” said Gary Bitner, spokesman for the Seminole Police Department and the Seminole Tribe. “It’s only happened just a handful of times since casino’s been open.”

Bitner says the hundreds of cameras around the casino and parking lots make the area extremely safe.

“This is a place where people don’t get away with anything,” he added.


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