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Date of Issue: June 03, 2009

Two plead not guilty to burglaries

John J. O'Keefe, 18, of Sarasota
Patrick S. Banker, 18, of Sarasota

Investigators say Patrick S. Banker told them the when, where and how he and a second man burglarized area businesses. But both Banker and his alleged accomplice pleaded not guilty to multiple felony burglary charges last week.

The two 18-year-old men, both from Sarasota, remained in the Manatee County jail with bond set at $5,000 on each charge, as of The Islander’s press time,

Banker and O’Keefe were arrested May 19 after Manatee County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Alan Judy observed signs of a break-in at the Waterfront Restaurant in Anna Maria.

Investigators said that Banker confessed to burglarizing the Waterfront and a number of other businesses on the Island, Longboat Key and mainland, as well as implicated O’Keefe.

Authorities have linked burglaries at the Anna Maria City Pier, 100 S. Bay Blvd., Anna Maria; Touch of Class Car Wash, 6310 14th St. W., Bradenton; Beach Bistro, 100 66th St., Holmes Beach; Pelican Pete’s, 12012 Cortez Road, Cortez; Tyler’s Ice Cream Shoppe, 11904 Cortez Road, Bradenton; 101 Bay Blvd., Anna Maria; the Centre Shops, 5350-5380 Gulf of Mexico Drive, Longboat Key; and Rotten Ralph’s at the Pier, 200 Bridge St., Bradenton Beach.

At the Manatee County Judicial Center last week, Banker’s attorney, Varinia Van Ness, filed a demand for a jury trial, a waiver of Banker’s formal arraignment and entered a not guilty plea.

Van Ness also filed a notice requesting the prosecution turn over the names of witnesses and statements related to the case.

O’Keefe’s attorney, Derek Byrd, filed similar papers.

While authorities allege that they have in custody the two men responsible for the rash of burglaries on the Island, they are encouraging business owners and residents to keep their property secure.

The city of Anna Maria is partnering with the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office crime prevention unit to hold two forums, one at 2 p.m. and another at 6 p.m., June 9 at city hall, 10005 Gulf Drive.

“It is very important that we hold this at this time,” Anna Maria Mayor Fran Barford said.

She added, “We want to keep our residents safe.”

Barford, during a city commission meeting May 28, praised the law enforcement response to the burglaries, especially the work of Judy, who was patrolling the city when he observed the break-in at the Waterfront Restaurant May 19.

“You were right there,” Barford said, adding that she sent a letter praising the deputy to the sheriff.

Judy said, “It worked out great.”