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Arrest made in two bank robberies Suspect says he bought drugs, clothes, sneakers

A serial bank robbery suspect arrested Tuesday told Buffalo police detectives he spent the proceeds from his crime spree on crack cocaine, new clothes and sneakers.

That was the account Dennis J. Richards, chief of detectives, gave when announcing the arrest of James Ellis, 49, a man with no known local address.

Ellis was charged Tuesday afternoon with Monday's robbery of the HSBC branch at South Park Avenue at Abbott Road, as well as a heist Feb. 21 at Northwest Savings Bank, 295 Main St.

Richards said Ellis is a suspect in at least two other recent local bank robberies as well as a business robbery, all of which remain under investigation.

Investigators were conferring with the Erie County District Attorney's Office and charged Ellis with two counts of third-degree robbery Tuesday.

Richards said he expected additional charges will be lodged against Ellis soon.

"Detectives had noticed the similarities in the appearance of the suspect in the recent bank robbery photos, as well as the method of operation in the recent robbery spree," Richards said.

Ellis was picked up on the 700 block of Sycamore Street by Officer Anthony R. DiSarno of the South District and brought to the Central District detectives office for questioning, the chief said.

Ellis admitted to detectives he was robbing banks to support a drug habit and to buy apparel, Richards said.

The investigation was carried out by Central District Detectives Brian F. Mahoney, Timothy J. Rooney, Anthony J. McHugh and John G. Paradowski, and South District Detective Mark J. Fitzpatrick.

The officers worked with the members of the Erie County Crime Analysis Center in investigating the robbery pattern and developing a possible suspect, Richards said.

Ellis was taken to the Erie County Holding Center and will be arraigned this morning in Buffalo City Court.