Bank robbery suspect nabbed

Police have arrested a man suspected to be the “Red Sharpie Bandit,” who is alleged to have committed a string of as many as 15 bank robberies this year, four of them in San Luis Obispo County.

Anthony William Frisco, 44, was arrested Dec. 17 in Santa Barbara. He was living in Santa Barbara but has also recently resided in San Clemente and Las Vegas, police said.

Frisco is at the San Luis Obispo County jail, facing four counts of armed robbery. His bail is $500,000.

Banks Frisco is suspected of robbing include a Wells Fargo Bank and a Chase Bank in San Luis Obispo, as well as a Rabobank in Pismo Beach and a Wells Fargo branch in Nipomo. The two Wells Fargo robberies occurred the same day — Dec. 14.

The other 11 banks Frisco is suspected of robbing are in Orange County. His alleged crime spree began on Jan. 12 with a robbery in San Clemente. The investigation into those crimes is ongoing, and Frisco could face additional charges.

He is being charged in San Luis Obispo County first because the evidence against him is strongest in the four heists that took place here, said Det. Sgt. Tom Portz of the Pismo Beach Police Department.

The robber was given the name the Red Sharpie Bandit because he used a red magic marker during the robberies, said Cmdr. Ken Conway, chief of the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Department detective bureau.

Frisco was arrested after a tip generated by news media coverage was phoned into the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department. The crime spree is being investigated by multiple law enforcement agencies along the Central Coast, including the FBI office in Santa Maria.

“This was an outstanding cooperative effort,” Conway said.

Many details about Frisco, including whether he has a prior criminal record and how much money was stolen during the alleged robberies, are not being released because they are part of the ongoing investigation, Portz said.

San Luis Obispo County can be an attractive place for bank robbers because Highway 101 runs through the populated areas. However, local armed robbery rates are still much lower than those in larger cities.

“We do have our fair share of bank robberies,” Portz said.

Reach David Sneed at 781-7930.