- Associated Press - Sunday, February 13, 2011

LOS ANGELES | Entrepreneurs are printing surveillance shots of his wrinkled face on T-shirts, thousands of people “like” him on Facebook, and many are wishing him continued success at evading the law.

To his legion of fans, the “Geezer Bandit” is a bank-robbing old man with a quirky nickname whose popularity only seems to grow with each heist.

But authorities trying to track him down say there is nothing lighthearted about the doddering robber.

They say he is an armed and dangerous menace who leaves bank tellers terrified and could strike at any time. He might even be someone younger disguised under a lifelike special-effects mask.

In a region the FBI has dubbed the bank robbery capital of the world, where stickups still occur on an almost daily basis, the “Geezer Bandit” case has captured the public’s interest like few others in recent memory.

And for now, at least, the robber is showing no signs of retiring.

Authorities say the blazer-clad geezer struck at a Bank of America branch Jan. 28 in Goleta, Calif., northwest of Los Angeles. Witnesses estimated him to be between 60 and 70 years old.

It was the farthest he had roamed from San Diego County, where he is suspected of robbing 11 banks starting in August 2009. He is also thought to have robbed a Bank of America in Bakersfield, bringing the tally to 13.

A typical posting on one of multiple Facebook pages set up to honor the crook exhorts him to “Run Geezer Run.”

One frequent commentator, Kenny Walsh, said he is pleased to see a robber targeting Bank of America. “Talk about a bunch of crooks glad to see you got some of the american people’s money back,” he wrote.

Hoping to make a quick buck, several people have designed T-shirts, mugs and other paraphernalia with the robber’s image from surveillance footage. It’s not clear how many have been purchased.

The fascination with bank robbers goes back generations in the U.S. Among the most notorious who have been venerated are John Dillinger, Bonnie and Clyde, and Jesse James.

David Halle, a sociology professor at the University of California at Los Angeles, said some people derive satisfaction from seeing large institutions under attack.

“There is a long tradition of not liking banks in the U.S.,” Mr. Halle said. “They have been unpopular for ages and now they are unpopular again for obvious reasons. [The ‘Geezer Bandit’] is not robbing old ladies.”

FBI Special Agent Steve May is appalled by the bandit’s elevation to antihero status.

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