LYON, France - A French security van driver suspected of making off with 11.6 million euros (17.2 million dollars) in cash has become a rising star on the web.
Several Facebook groups have cropped up to discuss the heist allegedly carried out by Tony Musulin, a 39-year-old employee of the Loomis security firm who disappeared from the central city of Lyon on Thursday morning.
Two co-workers who had briefly stepped out of the van to run an errand returned to find that Musulin had disappeared. Three hours later the vehicle was found empty in an area nearby.
Police suspect Musulin of staging the heist and a Europe-wide hunt has been underway since Friday for the man who apparently fled with 49 sacks of bills picked up from the Bank of France in Lyon.
The "Tony Musulin for president" Facebook page features such tongue-and-cheek comments as "he can certainly solve the crisis with 11.6 million" while members of the "Tony Musulin fan club" said he was a "hero" for his "no guns, no violence" approach.
"The World is Yours: Tony Best Driver 2009" page is also drawing a steady stream of comments describing the theft as "the heist of the century".
Lyon prosecutors have said the inside job appears to be a first in France.
Musulin's former girlfriend told TF1 television that the security firm employee led a simple life but that he "loved nice things."
"He was very careful with money," said the woman who manages a bar in a Lyon suburb and broke up with Musulin last year after 11 years together.
"His life was his job and sports and he liked to stay home in the evenings."
Investigators were looking into a possible Serbian or Croatian connection, a judicial official said.
But he declined to comment on press reports that Musulin had rented a van before the theft that may have served as a getaway vehicle.
Musulin owned a Ferrari sports car but had declared it stolen in April, according to investigators. He had also emptied his bank accounts and his apartment before the heist.