Bothell man suspected of being 'Tour de Banks' robber awaiting charges
By MATT PHELPS
Bothell Reporter Regional Assistant Editor
October 15, 2012 · 5:28 PM
A Bothell man suspected of being the “Tour de Banks” robber was ordered to be held in King County Jail on $800,000 bail Saturday.
Probable cause documents allege that Cristian Babalai, 29, was arrested near his Bothell home on Friday. He is suspected of eight separate armed bank robberies in King and Snohomish Counties from May 2 to Sept. 12. One of the eight banks Babalai is suspected of robbing is located in Bothell.
He is suspected of being the man dubbed the “Tour de Banks” robber, who gained the nickname from the fact that he fled some of the bank robberies on a bicycle.
The charging deadline is Tuesday, according to the King County Prosecutor’s Office.
The alleged robber used a Glock-type pistol, wore a black face mask with eyeholes and spoke in a “European accent,” according to Probable Cause documents.
The arrest was the result of an extensive collaborative effort between the King County Sheriff’s Office, the FBI Safe Streets Task Force and detectives from Bothell, Monroe, Arlington and Mill Creek Police Departments.
Surveillance video shows the robber driving a silver 1994-1997 Mercedes Benz C220 or C280 to at least two of the crime scenes, the documents continued.
“Investigators gathered lists of registered owners of these vehicles and found Babalai owns a 1995 C220 and lived near downtown Woodinville during the robbery spree,” the documents state. “Further investigation showed that Babalai was depositing large amounts of cash into his banking account after the most significant robberies … The deposits also seemed ‘structured’ to avoid detection.”
The “Tour de Banks” robber’s most significant takes were $77,000 from the Monroe Washington Federal Bank and $40,000 from the Mill Creek Whidbey Island Bank.
Investigators allegedly found that Babalai had lost approximately $60,000 gambling between May and October of 2012, the documents continued.
“Comparison of the bank robbery losses, the cash deposits made by Babalai and his gambling losses, showed an obvious pattern of incoming and outgoing cash all related to one another,” the documents state.
A search of Babalai’s cell phone records showed calls in the general area of all eight robberies immediately before, during or after.
“A serial bank robbery is a giant threat to public safety and it is great to see all of our agencies working together to put him away,” said King County Sheriff Steve Strachan on Friday.
Detectives said they watched the man’s house early Friday morning and arrested him as he drove from his home in the 20300 block of 124 Ave. N.E. of unincorporated Bothell around 8 a.m.
“This was an excellent resolution to a very dangerous threat and shows what can be accomplished with strong partnerships between local law enforcement agencies and the FBI,” said Bothell Chief Carol Cummings in a news release.
After the arrest, detectives served search warrants on the man’s Bothell home and an adult family home he owns in the 21100 block of 46 Ave. S.E. in Snohomish County. Detectives allegedly found a Glock pistol. Employees of his business also said that they had been paid in cash for their work by Babalai, stated the documents.
Contact Bothell Reporter Regional Assistant Editor Matt Phelps at email@example.com or 1-425-483-3732 (ext 5050).