Phillip Steinberg was arrested Wednesday night on charges of armed robbery after trying to rob Village Pizza at 4070 Deltona Blvd, according to the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office.
Steinberg, 22, wore a black ski mask and brandished a black knife. The clerk working the register thought Steinberg was joking and refused to hand over any cash, according to the report.
The man left the restaurant, pulling off the ski mask on his way out of the door before getting in his car and driving away. A Village Pizza employee saw Steinberg’s face, and a passing motorist noticed the strange situation and followed the silver car.
The driver called 911 and followed the car to Painters Street. Deputies saw a man putting the silver Mitsubishi’s tag back on. The man explained that a friend had borrowed his car to go to the liquor store and said that someone who looked like him had just robbed Village Pizza.
Not wanting to be mistaken for the robber, the car’s owner took off the license plate.
Steinberg’s friend allowed deputies to search his car, and they found the knife and ski mask inside it, as well as a pair of gloves in the backyard. Steinberg was identified by the employee and booked on $50,000 bond.
Steinberg, however, had his bond status changed to no bond due to a violation of his felony probation for intimidating a witness, according to jail records.
“Law enforcement typically discourages robbery victims from resisting the criminal’s demand for money,” Sheriff Al Nienhuis said Thursday. “Although this robbery had a happy ending, the situation could have escalated quickly.”
The sheriff and responding deputies said they wanted to thank the motorist — who wanted to remain anonymous — who followed Steinberg. The suspect was apprehended just 12 minutes after the 911 call was placed.