The "Fanny Pack Bandit" was something of a legend on the Westside, suspected of robbing nearly 10 banks from Manhattan Beach to Santa Monica.
But authorities said his nine-month crime spree went up in smoke over the weekend when his escape route from another robbery happened to pass two FBI agents lunching at the neighborhood Souplantation restaurant.
On Saturday afternoon the FBI agents looked up from their salads and noticed a man walking by outside with a bank bag billowing red clouds near the Bank of America on San Vicente Boulevard in Brentwood.
The agents immediately recognized the smoke as the telltale sign of an exploding pepper-spray-laced dye pack -- often used in banks to deter robbers.
FBI Special Agents Michael Haas and Steve Morris were off duty but went out and asked the man, dressed in a gray T-shirt and tight gray exercise shorts, to stop. He started running.
Haas, a former FBI SWAT team member now stationed overseas, chased the man, tossing aside his flip-flops to run in his bare feet, said FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller. He caught up with the man a few blocks later and arrested him. The man was carrying $1,256 in cash, authorities said.
Authorities have identified the alleged Fanny Pack Bandit as Peter Soren Walsky, 45. He got the nickname because he allegedly wore a fanny pack during some of the early robberies, Eimiller said.
Walsky appeared Tuesday before a federal magistrate judge on a single charge of robbing the San Vicente Boulevard bank and was ordered held in lieu of $400,000 bail. The magistrate set his arraignment for Sept. 20.
But according to an affidavit written by FBI Special Agent Brenda L. Cotton and filed in court this week, Walsky confessed to Saturday's robbery and nine others. FBI officials said they are interviewing witnesses in those cases before bringing charges.
Since Nov. 13, 2004, FBI officials allege, Walsky has robbed seven banks in Los Angeles, one in Manhattan Beach and two in Santa Monica.
Walsky handed a note to a teller at the Bank of America on Saturday that read: "Give me your money.... No tracking devices. No ink pack," according to the FBI affidavit.
There were 537 bank robberies in Los Angeles last year, so it might seem quite a coincidence for FBI agents to be in the right place at the right time.
But Eilmiller said something similar occurred earlier this year. In that case, Burbank police were pursuing robbery suspects into Los Angeles. Some FBI agents returning from lunch saw the pursuit and ended up capturing the suspects, she said.