Morro Bay police are trying to develop a list of customers who purchased a movie-quality silicone mask depicting an elderly man as a way to identify the serial bank robber known as the Geezer Bandit.
The Morro Bay Police Department recently filed a search warrant in San Luis Obispo Superior Court seeking payment information of those who bought a mask branded as The Elder over the past two years.
A Southern California-based company called SPFX Masks produces the masks.
Police believe the man who has robbed 16 banks in California — including ones in Morro Bay and San Luis Obispo in recent months — might be using the company’s mask and sleeves that give the appearance of a roughly 70-year-old man.
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Police have dubbed the robber the Geezer Bandit to help people remember him, particularly potential future witnesses. The FBI has offered a $20,000 reward for a tip leading to the arrest.
Morro Bay police investigator Leslie Daily said her agency and the FBI are working the case together as partners.
But to Daily’s knowledge a search warrant request by a law enforcement agency for the payment information hasn’t been issued.
Daily said she couldn’t get into what police may have discovered at this point or how they might be connecting the information to a possible suspect.
The Morro Bay robbery occurred May 27 at Heritage Oaks Bank at 310 Morro Bay Blvd. The robber pointed a gun at a teller and demanded “$20,000 or I’ll shoot you.”
The teller placed money on the counter in front of the robber, who put the cash into his “man purse,” using his left hand, the warrant states.
Authorities have used bank surveillance photos of the bandit to match the appearance to the realistic-looking silicone mask made by SPFX.
In an article last year in the Los Angeles Times, SPFX owner Rusty Slusser said that news coverage has boosted sales of his masks, which are priced from $600 to $1,200. But he’s not happy about it, according to the Times.
“We’re proud of the fact that our masks look real, but I’m not proud of the way they were used,” Slusser, a former makeup artist, told the newspaper. “We’re very embarrassed this has happened. We were shocked that this happened.”
The Geezer Bandit’s first robbery took place Aug. 28, 2009, in the San Diego County community of Santee. Morro Bay police have requested the payment records from two companies, including online payments service PayPal, that handled accounts for SPFX from Jan. 1, 2009, through May 27 of this year.
The Geezer Bandit also is suspected in a Dec. 2 heist of Bank of America in downtown San Luis Obispo.
He was wearing black slacks, white shirt, dark tie, sunglasses and a baseball cap during the San Luis Obispo robbery.
Police said witnesses in the Morro Bay theft described him as being just under 6 feet with a medium build, wearing a baseball cap and sunglasses. He may have left the scene in a cream-colored, two-door sedan.