A former journalist was arrested on suspicion of being the “Salon Bandit,” a criminal who is thought to have robbed three beauty salons and as many as six other businesses, police said Monday.
Joseph William Watson III was arrested Friday at a poker table at Casino Arizona on the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community. Police said Watson admitted to the crimes and told detectives he was driven to steal to cover gambling debt.
Watson, 35, had worked at various publications in the Phoenix area, including the Phoenix New Times, The Arizona Republic and the East Valley Tribune.
Watson also worked as an editor at Arizona State University’s State Press student daily newspaper and as an editor at Phoenix’s 944 magazine. He was published in Food and Wine and the Cape Cod Times.
Police said Watson could face six counts of armed robbery in connection with a string of March heists in Scottsdale, including three salons that were robbed just hours apart. Other charges are pending.
Investigators believe Watson robbed several Scottsdale businesses including two tanning salons, a Subway restaurant, a swimming pool supply store and bath and beauty products store.
Watson was held on five counts of armed robbery. A sixth charge is pending, police said. Police said he also is under investigation in connection with two other robberies, one in Phoenix and one in Tempe.
In the Scottsdale salon heists, Watson was seen on video surveillance cameras with one hand in a brown paper bag. Police said he was pretending to have a weapon.
An anonymous caller phoned police and identified Watson after seeing the video footage on a nightly TV news broadcast.