EVERETT — The FBI believes a Mill Creek man arrested last week is the serial bank robber called the “Harry Potter Bandit.”
The suspect, Caleb Dierlam, was expected to make a federal court appearance in Seattle on Tuesday afternoon. The FBI transferred Dierlam from the Snohomish County Jail to federal custody on Tuesday morning.
Dierlam, 20, is accused of committing at least six bank robberies from July through early November in Washington and Oregon. He was arrested Dec. 14.
Money from the robberies has not been recovered, according to court documents.
Dierlam has no criminal history. The Michigan man earlier this year moved to the Puget Sound area and was staying in Mill Creek with friends of his parents.
For months, he came and went from the couple’s home as if he were going to work. He said he was active in church and also spent a lot of time playing on his computer.
In July, a Lynnwood bank teller was passed a note asking her to stay quiet and leave any dye packs out of the cash. The suspect wore green shoes and a button-down shirt underneath a dark sweater.
A similar holdup was reported in Everett in August with a suspect in similar clothes. The next month, Mount Vernon police sent a press release about a bank robbery like the others. The suspect wore clothing matching the description of the other robbers but “altered his appearance slightly by wearing glasses,” according to court papers.
In later holdups, the suspect had a soul patch and hair dyed a shade of gray-blue. In some cases, he apparently used tanning products to alter the color of his skin.
Investigators attempted to identify the man with facial recognition software and by releasing surveillance stills and video to the public. The FBI dubbed him the “Harry Potter Bandit” on a wanted poster.
On Dec. 1, a customer at a Lynnwood Starbucks called 911. The customer said a man using a laptop in the coffee shop looked like the robbery suspect from the news. Police learned the man’s name and took his picture, but he was not arrested.
Then they checked out his address and background. He had no employment records in Washington, according to the report.
The FBI contacted Dierlam’s landlords last week. His rent was never more than $125 a month, the agents were told.
Not long before the visit, the couple who owned the home learned Dierlam had been lying to them, they said. They believed he was active in church and twice-weekly Bible study groups until people from those groups told them otherwise.
They had confronted him, and he allegedly said he wanted to do the church activities but he was too anxious and he didn’t want to disappoint them.
The couple reportedly said Dierlam’s clothing and mannerisms matched the suspects seen on surveillance footage from the local robberies.
Detectives conducted a court-approved search of Dierlam’s bedroom where they found makeup they believe was used to disguise him in the Oregon bank robberies. They also reportedly found clothing similar to what was worn at all of the bank robberies. Dierlam declined to answer their questions.
Criminal justice experts say that hitting a bank is often a desperate act prompted by an addiction, such as gambling or drugs, or a sudden change in lifestyle.
Dierlam’s arrest report made no mention of a possible motive.
Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446, email@example.com