A suspect’s EBT card and his habit of buying pizza at a Carson restaurant were crucial clues for detectives trying to solve a string of armed robberies around Bixby Knolls and Cal Heights, court records show.

Police allege a 38-year-old homeless man named Michael Pontious and a co-conspirator were responsible for 17 stick-ups at fast food restaurants and convenience stores along Atlantic Avenue, Long Beach Boulevard and Cherry Avenue.

During March and April, they took turns robbing Subway sandwich shops, pizza places, burger joints and 7-Elevens where they’d threaten employees with a gun or knife and then flee with cash from the register, police allege.

During one robbery, Pontious bought something with an EBT card before menacing the clerk with a gun and making his escape on a scooter with $200, police allege in a pair of search warrants that outline the investigation.

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Detectives wrote that they used 7-Eleven purchase records and the county’s social services database to link Pontious to the card, which is used to distribute public benefits like nutrition assistance. They soon saw the same card was often used to buy pizza from a shop on Carson Street when the man’s monthly benefits came in.

Last month, detectives surveilled the shop and tracked Pontious to a tent along the 710 Freeway, where they arrested him and seized a gun, mask and goggles — he was often shown in security camera footage wearing goggles during robberies, police wrote.

After using Pontious’ cell phone to get contact info for his alleged co-conspirator, police then asked a judge to let them ping the GPS system on the man’s phone to track him down.

They arrested him Monday at Baker Street Park near where the 405 Freeway crosses the Los Angeles River, jail records show.

Both Pontious and his alleged co-conspirator, Giovanni Johnson, are facing multiple counts of robbery, according to court records.

They were being held on $520,000 and $300,000 bail, respectively, records show.

Jeremiah Dobruck is managing editor of the Long Beach Post. Reach him at [email protected] or @jeremiahdobruck on Twitter.