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Man suspected in 30 bank robberies arrested in Seattle

By Jonathan Kaminsky

(Reuters) - A man suspected of robbing 30 banks in the Seattle area over the past year without ever brandishing a weapon was arrested as he was making a getaway from his latest holdup, authorities said on Wednesday.

The 44-year-old suspect, a resident of Everett, Washington, was taken into custody as he was leaving a Key Bank branch in north Seattle late on Tuesday afternoon, the FBI and local police said.

Because he has not yet been formally charged, authorities did not release his name.

Bail was set at $750,000.

The suspect's capture stemmed from months of detective work by federal and local law enforcement across two counties, said Ayn Sandalo Dietrich, a spokeswoman for the FBI in Seattle, which led the investigation.

Investigators first identified a van they believed to be associated with the robberies, and placed the vehicle under surveillance, Sandalo Dietrich said.

In tailing the van on Tuesday, investigators observed the vehicle as it was driven around a Key Bank branch near the University of Washington campus for two hours, before a lone occupant exited, put on a mask and entered the bank.

Police arrested the suspect as he walked out, and he was found to be carrying an unspecified sum of money from the bank, Sandalo Dietrich said.

"We were waiting for him," Sandalo Dietrich said.

Authorities believe the suspect wore two disguises in carrying out his heists - one entailing a piece of cloth worn over his head with eye holes cut out, and one consisting of a tight-fitting metallic-looking mask.

Initially, investigators thought the robberies were the work of two individuals, dubbing them the "Elephant Man Bandit" and the "Cyborg Bandit," respectively.

But similarities between the two sets of robberies led them to consider that one person was behind all the heists, Sandalo Dietrich said. The suspect always wore latex gloves, he never brandished a weapon and he hit banks in a two-county area.

"It took a lot of tiny pieces of information that came from the different robberies," Sandalo Dietrich said. "Pulling them all together is what enabled us to build the investigation."

(Reporting by Jonathan Kaminsky; Editing by Steve Gorman and Lisa Shumaker)

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