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Tour de Banks Robber Charged, Held on $2 Million Bail

Cristian Babalai, who lived in Woodinville at the time of the heists, is charged with eight counts of first-degree robbery and reportedly lost large sums of money at a Kirkland casino.

 

The 29-year-old Bothell man believed to be the so-called "Tour de Banks" robber was charged Tuesday in King County Superior Court with eight counts of first-degree robbery.

Court documents link Cristian Cornel Babalai to eight robberies from May through September, three of which were in Woodinville at Key Bank, Union Bank and Bank of America. The others include two banks in Bothell, one in Monroe, one in Arlington and one in Mill Creek. Authorities dubbed Babalai the “Tour de Banks” bandit for his alleged use of a bicycle to escape the crime scenes. 

Charging documents allege Babalai gambed at Kirkland's Casino Carribbean at times within hours of the robberies, losing large sums of money.

Babalai, who authorities say is a Romanian national, lived in Woodinville on the 18000 block of 142nd Ave NE during the time of all of the robberies, documents said. He reportedly moved to Bothell earlier this month, where he was arrested Oct. 12.

The arrest was the result of an investigation between the King County Sheriff’s Office (including Woodinville police), the F.B.I. Safe Streets Task Force and detectives from Bothell, Monroe, Arlington, and Mill Creek Police Departments. They used phone and bank records, surveillance on Babalai's vehicle and gambling records to link him to the crimes.

Investigators reportedly connected the robberies, large cash deposits into Babalai's bank accounts and money he lost while gambling. Babalai gambled at the Kirkland casino within hours after some of the robberies and lost close to $59,000 from May through September, documents say.

In total, Babalai stole approximately $142,000 in cash, documents said, and nearly $18,000 of that was taken from Woodinville banks. The two largest heists were in Monroe on July 30, in which $77,000 was stolen, and in Mill Creek on Sept. 12, which reported a loss of $40,000. Although documents said Babalai stole $3,000 from a Bothell bank in July, dye-pack security devices reportedly exploded, likely making that cash useless.

At a media briefing Friday afternoon, King County Sheriff Steve Strachan said the suspect had been increasingly aggressive with tellers. Court documents said Babalai threatened to shoot tellers if they did not hurry, but also apologized to tellers in more than one robbery.

After the Arlington robbery, a witness told authorities she saw the suspect put a bicycle into a Mercedes Benz. This was the key to cracking the case, Strachan said, because when it was positively identified, it led to more information and the arrest. 

According to authorities, the robberies were committed by a man who spoke with an accent described as slightly European, and was typically armed with a Glock-style handgun or a knife while wearing a full-face ski mask, gloves, a dark baseball cap or hoodie, and a dark long sleeve sweatshirt. 

Police recovered a Glock pistol during a search of the man's home and business, an adult family home he owns in the 21100 block of 46 Ave SE in Snohomish County, court documents said.

A registered nursing assistant, Babalai is also now at the center of investigations into the Loving Adult Family Home, which he operates with his wife, The Seattle Times is reporting. Spokeswomen told The Times the state Health Department and Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) have opened investigations.

Linda Moss, a district administrator for DSHS's Aging and Disability Services Administration, told The Times that all six residents have been moved out of the home and no new residents can be placed there.

Babalai is currently being held on $2 million bail at the King County Jail after prosecutors argued that $60,000 in robbery cash is unaccounted for, making him a flight risk. His .

Babalai will be arraigned on Oct. 29 at the King County Courthouse.

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