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Sunday, October 14, 2012 - Page updated at 06:00 p.m.

'Tour de Banks' robbery suspect is held on bail

By Christine Clarridge
Seattle Times staff reporter

The man suspected of being the so-called "Tour de Banks" robber, a prolific bank bandit known for his bicycle getaways, was ordered held Saturday in lieu of $800,000 bail.

A King County District Court judge found probable cause to hold Cristian Babalai in connection with eight bank robberies in King and Snohomish counties between January and September. The deadline for filing charges is Tuesday, according to Ian Goodhew, deputy chief of staff for King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg

The 29-year-old man was arrested on Friday by detectives who had been watching his Bothell home.

According to an affidavit of probable cause, which outlines the police case, investigators found a correlation between the robberies, Babalai's cash deposits and his gambling losses. At one point, he suffered a $60,000 gambling loss, the document says.

Investigators also say that Babalai deposited large sums of cash into his bank account shortly after robberies that netted large sums of money, particularly the robberies of the Washington Federal Bank in Monroe on July 30, in which $77,000 was stolen, and the robbery of Whidbey Island Bank in Mill Creek on Sept. 12, which reported a loss of $40,000.

Although the bank deposits appeared to have been structured to avoid suspicion, bankers nevertheless found them so, the affidavit says.

Cellphone records indicate Babalai was in the general area of each of the banks when the heists occurred, according to the document.

In addition, employees of the Loving Adult Family Home, which is owned by Babalai, told police he had recently begun paying them in cash, which they found unusual, police said in the document.

According to the FBI, the "Tour de Banks" robber was frequently spotted riding a bicycle to the banks he robbed. However, the affidavit says surveillance video showed that the bank robber had driven a silver 1994 through 1997 Mercedes-Benz C220 or C280 to some of the robberies.

A search of registered owners of those cars showed that Babalai owns a 1995 Mercedes-Benz C220, the document says.

According to the FBI, the robberies were committed by a man who spoke with a "European" accent and was typically armed with a Glock-style handgun or a knife while wearing a full-face ski mask, gloves and a hooded sweatshirt or a baseball cap.

During a search of Babalai's home and business, police recovered a Glock pistol, court documents say.

The robberies attributed to the "Tour de Banks" robber took place between Jan. 30 and Sept. 12 at banks in Bothell, Woodinville, Monroe and Mill Creek, the FBI said.

Christine Clarridge: 206-464-8983 or cclarridge@seattletimes.com

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