Bank Heist Suspect's Luck Runs out at Casino

Edmond Sykes apparently likes to gamble - not only with cards, but in real life. This week, the odds caught up with him.

The 54-year-old Encino man was arrested Wednesday at Commerce Casino - in between poker hands - on suspicion of robbing 17 banks in the past 21 months, most in the San Fernando Valley.

He was formally charged Thursday in U.S. District Court on one count of armed bank robbery, although officials expect to add more charges. He was being held without bail at the Metropolitan Detention Center.

The FBI initially suspected Sykes in the robberies committed by a person they dubbed the Armed Old Man Bandit. But after arresting him, they also linked him to robberies committed by the Fedora Bandit.

"We're reasonably certain that he is (both bandits)," FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said. "They had similar MOs."

The bandit was known for being abusive and foul-mouthed, police said. In some cases, he threatened customers and tellers with a gun. Five times, he claimed he had a bomb, forcing the LAPD to evacuate the bank and neighboring businesses until the Bomb Squad cleared the area.

Often, he'd wear bandages on his face to make it appear as if he'd been involved in a serious accident. Other times, he'd don the fedora.

He lived alone, was unemployed and likely used the robberies to support a gambling habit, Eimiller said.

Investigators believe it was Sykes whose face was covered in Band-Aids on Nov. 25 when he held up the First Commerce Bank in Encino. According to a federal arrest warrant, that's when he made his big mistake.

After the holdup, a bank employee followed the robber into the parking lot and wrote down the license plate number of his 1998 Mitsubishi. Officials traced the car to Sykes. Three days later, an FBI agent showed three bank employees Sykes' picture, and all three identified him.

The FBI served a search warrant at his Encino home Nov. 29, but he wasn't there and never came back. The FBI believes he had been living in a hotel.

Because of his gambling habit, investigators looked for him in local casinos and card houses.

"One of our agents happened to go to the casino in Commerce (on Wednesday) and was conversing with security personnel there, giving them fliers, when he looked over and saw Mr. Sykes actually playing," Eimiller said.

The FBI agent and casino security lured Sykes into a private room, where he was arrested.