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Bank robbery suspect nabbed
By ERICA HALL
Average Joe robbed his 11th bank Monday evening in Federal Way. On Wednesday, Federal Way police caught him.
FBI agents dubbed the serial bank robber Average Joe because the man is fairly nondescript: white, in his early 40s, 5 feet 9 inches and 180 pounds, thin build with a goatee and long, light brown, wavy hair that he occasionally wears in a ponytail.
His method was as inconspicuous as his appearance. He didn't wear a disguise and he never carried anything into the bank, FBI spokeswoman Robbie Burroughs said. He simply walked to the counter, made a simple, verbal demand, and quietly left on foot.
On Wednesday, a Federal Way police officer arrested Mark Anthony Serrano, 42, a Federal Way resident and temp worker at Lakehaven Utility District who police believe is Average Joe, after a traffic stop in the 300 block of Fourth Avenue South. Following his arrest, the officer found a wad of cash totaling $3,710 in Serrano's pants pocket. Police said Serrano admitted robbing 11 banks between last Halloween and last Monday to support a heroin addiction.
He was arraigned in federal court Thursday on one charge of robbing the Bank of America. Burroughs said the other bank robberies probably will be added later in the case.
Serrano pulled off his last robbery, the Bank of America off South 320th Street in Federal Way, about 5:30 p.m. Monday. He entered the bank, displayed what appeared to be a handgun in his waist band (he later told police it was a hairbrush with a wooden handle) and demanded the teller give him all the $100s, $50s and $20s. After the robbery, he walked out the front door and disappeared from sight with $3,566 in cash, according to charging papers. Most of the other customers in the bank didn't know there'd been a robbery, Burroughs said.
Average Joe hit his first bank last Halloween at the Key Bank on Campus Drive in Federal Way. He hit a Bank of America in Tukwila Nov. 14 and a U.S. Bank in Tukwila Jan. 14. Two weeks later, he hit a Wells Fargo in Renton, then a Rainier Pacific Bank in Federal Way Feb. 2, and a Washington Federal Savings bank in Auburn on Feb. 17.
He robbed a U.S. Bank in Puyallup Feb. 20 and a Key Bank in Bellevue March 20 before coming back to Federal Way, where he hit a Key Bank on Campus Drive June 21, a U.S. Bank on South 312th Street June 22, and the Bank of America Monday. Monday's robbery was the first in which he attempted to use a gun.
Burroughs said several people called Federal Way police and the FBI after seeing pictures and descriptions of Average Joe in local news reports. Police learned Average Joe's real identity after several people gave Serrano's name, she said.
Lakehaven Utility District general manager Don Perry said Serrano was hired in late May or early June to do maintenance work, like clean and paint hydrants and cut grass. He said the temp agency screens for criminal history in its workers, but added if the worker has a clean record and is arrested after starting work, "it's nobody's fault but the suspect's."
Though Serrano was arrested and charged, Perry said he'll wait for a verdict to condemn the former temp worker. "Until he's convicted by a jury of his peers, I'll give him the benefit of the doubt," he said.
Staff writer Erica Hall: 925-5565, firstname.lastname@example.org