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'Grandpa bandit' identified

COVINGTON - The older man who authorities say is responsible for the robbery of the First Georgia Community Bank in Covington earlier this year has been identified by authorities.

According to the Knoxville, Tenn., Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, an arrest warrant was issued for the suspect, Bobby Joe Phillips, 69, of Covington, in Federal Court Friday.

In addition to the robbery of the First Georgia Community Bank in September, the FBI says that Phillips, who has been dubbed as the "Grandpa Bandit," is believed to be involved in the robberies of three other banks in Tennessee and Georgia including: The Tennessee Members First Federal Credit Union in Knoxville on Nov. 1; The First Tennessee Bank on Cedar Bluff Road in Knoxville on Oct. 1, and again on Oct. 12; and the Sun Trust Bank in Suwanee on Oct. 24.

In each of the robberies, Phillips allegedly presented a note to the teller demanding money.

"We've got an excellent lead from the FBI and Suwanee (police department)," said Detective Daniel Seals, spokesman for the Covington Police Department. "They feel confident that they've identified the guy through some eyewitnesses up there that know him ... so we're obviously working with them to do the same here."

Phillips is described as being about 5 feet, 10 inches tall and about 170 pounds. He has gray hair, blue eyes and wears glasses.

Phillips also has tattoos on his forearms and is believed to be driving a red, 2003 Chevrolet S-10 pickup truck with Georgia license plate No. AWG 7679.

"We're hoping that someone will recognize (Phillips) or see him and be able to give us some information that will lead to his arrest," said Darrell DeBusk, spokesman for the Knoxville Police Department.

Authorities ask that anyone with information as to Phillips' whereabouts call the FBI at 865-544-0751 or the CPD at 770-786-7605. Tips can be given to the CPD anonymously by visiting their Web site at www.covington police.com and clicking on "contact us" and then "secret witness."

Joel Griffin can be reached at joel.griffin@newton citizen.com.