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Originally published October 1, 2008 at 12:00 AM | Page modified October 1, 2008 at 2:11 PM

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Did inner-tube robber use Craigslist in heist?

Monroe police are searching for a man who robbed an armored-car guard Tuesday morning then fled with the money — down the Skykomish River on an inner tube.

Seattle Times staff reporters

Inflation has certainly been good to one crafty robber.

Monroe police are searching for a man who robbed an armored-car guard Tuesday morning then fled with the money — down a nearby creek on an inner tube.

Police say the robber also may have recruited a host of unwitting decoys through a Craigslist ad.

The robbery happened about 11 a.m. in the Bank of America parking lot at Old Owen Road and Highway 2 in Monroe, said police spokeswoman Debbie Willis.

Mitch Ruth, who works across from the bank, saw the robbery from his office window and said the suspect was wearing a blue shirt and a dust mask, according to a KING-5 News report.

The man watched as a security guard walked from the bank to the armored car with a large amount of cash in canvas bags, Willis said. He then confronted the guard and sprayed him with pepper spray.

According to witnesses, the man grabbed the money and ran about 100 yards to Woods Creek, Willis said. Police believe the man jumped into an inner tube and floated westbound in the direction of the nearby Skykomish River.

Police say they later found the inner tube on the banks of Woods Creek, but no trace of the robber.

Willis said it was the first time she'd heard of that kind of getaway. It's possible the man had an accomplice waiting for him downriver, she said.

"It appears to be fairly well-planned," Willis said.

Part of that planning may have been a Craigslist ad recruiting decoys, Willis said.

Mike, who wanted to be identified only by his first name, told KING-5 that he saw a Craigslist ad last week seeking workers for a road-maintenance project. He inquired and was e-mailed instructions to meet near the bank at 11 a.m. Tuesday and to wear specific clothing.

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"Yellow vest, safety goggles, a respirator mask ... and, if possible, a blue shirt," Mike told KING-5.

No contractor met Mike and about a dozen other similarly dressed men who showed up at the bank, and they thought they had been stood up. Then, KING-5 reported, a man told them about the bank robbery.

" 'Yeah, guys, we just got scammed,' " Mike said the man told him. "Bank robbery just happened to be right across the street, in the same attire in all the e-mails that everyone got."

Police are investigating the ad to determine whether it is linked to the robbery, Willis said.

The FBI responded to the scene and is assisting in the investigation. Seattle FBI spokeswoman Robbie Burroughs said that armored-car robberies are "quite uncommon" and that she'd never heard of anyone using an inner tube as a getaway vehicle.

"I do remember one time we had a bank robbery in Olympia, and the guy got into scuba gear and dove into the water," Burroughs said. "I thought that was the most bizarre thing I'd ever heard until today."

The scuba guy, Charles Everett Coma, of Olympia, was sentenced last year to 16 years in prison.

The armored-car-company security guard was treated at the scene for exposure to the pepper spray and released, Willis said. Nobody else was hurt.

The suspect in Tuesday's robbery is described as a white male, about 25, between 5 foot 7 and 5 foot 10, Willis said. He was wearing some sort of mask, police said.

Police are not releasing surveillance video or disclosing how much money was stolen.

Anyone with information is asked to call Monroe police at 360-863-4600.

Sonia Krishnan: 206-515-5546 or skrishnan@seattletimes.com;

Noelene Clark: 206-464-2321 or nclark@seattletimes.com.

Seattle Times staff reporter Charles E. Brown contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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