Golden Gate neighbors stunned by 63-year-old’s arrest in Lee robberies

— A kind man with a nice family.

That’s how Golden Gate resident Karen Rogers describes her neighbor, Thomas Klein, 63, who was arrested July 9 and is accused of robbing two Lee County banks.

“They’re very nice people,” said Rogers, 46, of the family she has gotten to know during the past 10 years. “It’s a sad case.”

According to Lee County sheriff’s officials, Klein, of the 4000 block of 22nd Place Southwest, Golden Gate, was arrested with assistance from the Collier County Sheriff’s Office and booked into the Collier County jail on the Lee County robbery charges.

Klein remains in jail and bond was set at $20,000.

Although he originally was charged with two counts of robbery with a weapon, as of Friday he is facing two counts of robbery with no firearm or weapon.

According to State’s Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Samantha Syoen, the state has two separate cases against Klein _ one for the Jan. 13 robbery at RBC bank and one for the July 8 robbery of a Wachovia bank.

“He faces a maximum of 15 years in prison in each case,” she said.

Klein’s arraignment is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Monday.

It was a Southwest Florida Crime Stoppers tipster who provided Klein’s name in connection to the July 8 heist at a Wachovia Bank branch in Estero. Because the person used the Crime Stoppers hot line, he or she can remain anonymous and be eligible for up to a $1,000 reward.

Lee detectives obtained Klein’s driver license photo and prepared a photo lineup, presenting it to several witnesses of the Wachovia robbery and one occurring Jan. 13 at the RBC Bank at 9430 Bonita Beach Road in Bonita Springs.

The witnesses of both robberies positively identified Klein as the suspect.

In both cases, Klein handed an employee a bag and a note, implying to tellers that he had a gun.

If you have information about unsolved crimes in Southwest Florida, contact your local law enforcement agency.

■ Collier County Sheriff’s Office — (239) 252-9300

■ Lee County Sheriff’s Office — (239) 477-1000

■ Naples Police and Fire Department — (239) 213-4844

■ Marco Island Police Department — (239) 389-5050

■ Fort Myers Police Department — (239) 321-7700

■ Crime Stoppers — 1-800-780-TIPS (8477)

In the Bonita Springs case, a witness said the robber wore a wig and counted his money behind the bank. In the Estero robbery, authorities described the suspect as either a male or a female.

On a recent afternoon, a woman who identified herself as Klein’s wife, Darlene, 53, declined to comment on the case while outside of the family’s Golden Gate home.

Nevertheless, some of the family’s neighbors are rallying around them.

Rogers fondly recalled the last time she saw Klein before the arrest.

Both families had attended the Golden Gate High School band’s end-of-year concert, she said, because her 17-year-old son and Klein’s 16-year-old-son both play the trumpet.

However, Rogers said she couldn’t fathom what might have led Klein to do what he’s being charged with, if he did.

“He’s not a bad man,” Rogers said, adding that she hopes it’s all a big misunderstanding and Klein gets to go home soon. “I’m hoping the courts will see that.”

__ Connect with Elysa Batista at www.naplesnews.com/staff/elysa_batista

© 2010 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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