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Portland police nab the 'Waddling Bandit'

PORTLAND — The 71-year-old Tillamook man authorities believe is the "waddling bandit" in about 15 Northwest stickups is a millionaire property owner, according to court testimony.

Family members say that's why it's impossible that Robert Christie is the robber of distinctive, toddling gait who has been knocking over bank branches along the Interstate 5 corridor between Medford and Kelso, Wash., since April 2005.

"We have evidence my client is a wealthy person with no need to rob banks," his attorney, Michael Levine, said Tuesday.

The assets are what make him a flight risk, said U.S. Magistrate Judge Donald C. Ashmanskas.

"He's got $4 million in assets and zero liability," Ashmanskas said Tuesday. "He's got sufficient funds to flee."

He ordered Christie held in jail. His next hearing is in mid-November.

Christie taught math and personal finance at Tillamook High School for 22 years.

He and his family own about 20 rental properties in Tillamook and Portland, including some for low-income tenants, and he keeps cattle at a 140-acre farm. He also owns stocks and bonds, his family said.

His wife of 48 years, Joan, has protested that he is innocent.

In July, he filed a Measure 37 claim to develop his land into 200 homes on half-acre lots.

Why would he rob banks? FBI Agent Timothy Suttles said Christie apparently has a gambling problem.

He said a poker player told authorities that bank surveillance photos of the Waddling Bandit resembled a fellow player at Chinook Winds Casino in Lincoln City.

The FBI says about $70,000 has been taken in a string of holdups in which the robber waddled to the counter and presented a typed note to tellers.

Christie is accused in the Oct. 16 robbery of a Bank of America branch in Albany, in which $9,750 was taken.