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Originally published October 16, 2012 at 8:06 PM | Page modified October 17, 2012 at 7:39 AM

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Charges filed against bicycling suspected robber of 8 banks

The man police say is the "Tour de Banks" bandit for his use of a bicycle to surveil then flee eight banks over a four-month period was charged Tuesday with eight counts of armed robbery.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Hope they get deported back to Romania when this is all over. MORE
Does this mean we get to call Sandusky the Tour de Pants bandit? MORE
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The first two banks Cristian Babalai allegedly robbed were within a couple hundred yards of his Woodinville apartment, according to King County prosecutors, who on Tuesday charged the 29-year-old with eight counts of first-degree robbery.

Babalai, who police say is the "Tour de Banks" bandit because he used a bicycle to surveil then flee eight banks over a four-month period, brandished a handgun and threatened to shoot tellers if they didn't hurry, according to charging documents. He typically donned a ski mask before entering the banks and apologized to a teller in more than one robbery, the documents say.

Babalai, who moved his family to a different residence in Bothell a week before his arrest Friday, is being held in the King County Jail in lieu of $2 million bail, court and jail records show. His bail was originally set at $800,000.

King County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Sean O'Donnell requested the increased bail, noting investigators believe that more than $60,000 in cash is unaccounted for, making Babalai an extreme flight risk.

Detectives from the King County Sheriff's Office, the FBI's Safe Streets Task Force and from police departments in Bothell, Monroe, Arlington and Mill Creek worked together to identify Babalai as a suspect, using cellphone and bank records, surveillance on Babalai's Mercedes-Benz and information about his gambling habits to build their case against him, charging papers say.

Babalai, a Romanian national, is suspected of stealing approximately $147,000 in the eight robberies between May 2 and Sept. 12, according to charging documents. In a July robbery at a Key Bank branch in Bothell, Babalai's $3,000 take was destroyed when two dye packs exploded, the papers say.

Later that month, he made off with $775 from a US Bank in Bothell, but a week later stole $77,000 from the Washington Federal Bank in Monroe after making his first demand to access the bank's vault, charging papers say.

Babalai, a registered nursing assistant and the resident manager of the Loving Adult Family Home in Bothell, which he operates with his wife, is now also the subject of investigations by the state Health Department and Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS), according to spokeswomen with each agency.

Linda Moss, a district administrator for DSHS's Aging and Disability Services Administration, said her agency issued a summary suspension and stop-placement order on the Loving Adult Family Home on Friday. All six residents have since been moved out of the home and no new residents can be placed there, she said.

Sara Jean Green: 206-515-5654 or sgreen@seattletimes.com

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