Serial Mandarin pharmacy robbery suspect arrested

Man accused of holding up 5 pharmacies since May

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Suspect seen leaving latest robbery Wednesday night at the Publix at 11406 San Jose Boulevard.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Police in Jacksonville have arrested a man they said is connected to robberies of five Mandarin pharmacies since May 12 to obtain hydrocodone.

Michael Lee, 52, was arrested early Friday morning. He is charged in one robbery and suspected in three others and an attempted robbery.

Police said they received a call Thursday night from someone that a man matching the description of the suspect was seen at a Walmart on San Jose buying a money order.

Mike Williams, director of investigations and homeland security for the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, said officers were able to track Lee's location to an Extended Stay America in the 1400 block of Prudential Drive, where they found a white Ford Explorer matching the description of the suspect's vehicle.

Lee was detained at the hotel, and when questioned confessed to all five robberies, Williams said.

IMAGES: 4 robberies in 5 weeks

The latest holdup was Wednesday night. Officers called to the Publix on San Jose Boulevard at Mandarin Road about 7:15 p.m. were told the robbery suspect went into the store, approached the pharmacy counter and demanded a prescription narcotic. Police said he threatened to pull out a gun if his demands were not met, but no weapon was seen.

The suspect obtained 1,000 hydrocodone pills and threatened employees of the store with a large knife when confronted, Williams said. They said he fled the store.

Police said the robbery was believed to be connected with three additional robberies of supermarket pharmacies in Mandarin. In each of the cases, the suspect had the same physical description and threatened to display or use a gun, but none was shown.

On Monday, a man held up the pharmacy of the Winn-Dixie on San Jose at Loretto Road. Witnesses said the robbery suspect apologized and said he needed the drugs for his wife who has cancer.

The series of pharmacy robberies appeared to begin May 12, when a man attempted to hold up the Walgreens on San Jose Boulevard just north of Interstate 295 in the afternoon, then robbed the Publix on Old St. Augustine Road by I-295 just 16 minutes later, obtaining 1,000 hydrocodone pills, Williams said.

Lee was also suspected in a May 30 robbery at the Publix in the 10500 block of San Jose Boulevard.

Williams said police would not provide Lee's booking photo Friday because they are still investigating his involvement in other crimes.

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