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Theft Spree

Police investigating thefts from ATMs

Police investigating thefts from ATMs

November 05, 2005|By PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

SMITHSBURG - A Hagerstown Trust ATM in Smithsburg was ripped open and money taken Friday morning the same way three other drive-through island cash machines in Hagerstown, Martinsburg, W.Va., and Frederick, Md., were hit in recent months, Washington County Sheriff's Department Sgt. Mark Knight said.

In each case, the masked and gloved bandits use a stolen pickup truck, with a chain attached to the hitch, to rip open the approximately 500-pound drive-up island machines' doors, Knight said. From there, they take the cash-filled drawers and drive to a waiting vehicle, he said.

No suspects have been identified, but the thefts are considered linked, Knight said. The FBI is assisting with the investigations, Special Agent Richard Wolf said.

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In the Friday incident, the bandits struck Hagerstown Trust, at 22413 Jefferson Boulevard in Smithsburg, taking an undisclosed amount of money at 3:09 a.m., Knight said. Damages to the machine are estimated at about $53,000, he said.

A white 2004 Ford F-350 pickup truck was found before noon Friday - still running - parked diagonally in a driveway on Goose Street in Smithsburg, about 100 yards from the bank. The ignition in the 4-by-4 truck, stolen from a doctor's office parking lot in Myersville, Md., was popped, Knight said.

"Typically, what they do is steal it, use it and dump it off ... and they dump it off close by," Knight said.

On Oct. 30, an ATM at Westview Plaza, at 5279 Buckeystown Pike in Frederick County, Md., was targeted the same way, according to a written release from Maryland State Police in Frederick.

During the investigation into that case, reported at 5:09 a.m., police discovered that the culprits "stole a pickup truck from a nearby location and afterwards returned the truck to its original location on Pegasus Court," the release states.

"The culprit(s) appear to have experience with this type of crime and were able to complete this crime in a very short period of time," the release from Maryland State Police in Frederick states.

It took thieves "minutes" to hit Hagerstown Trust on Wesel Boulevard on Sept. 15, Hagerstown Police Department Detective Christopher Kayser said.

In that incident, which occurred about 3 a.m., the bandits stole a Ford F-250 pickup truck from Hagerstown Ford on Massey Boulevard. They dropped it off at the shopping center across the street from the dealership after the incident, which occurred down the road, Kayser said.

When police found that truck, its ignition was popped and it was still running, Kayser said.

Video surveillance of that theft shows "only one (man) visible" in the truck at the drive-through, but he was wearing a big coat, gloves and a hat, he said.

Knight said the Martinsburg theft occurred within a couple of weeks of the Hagerstown theft.

Stephen L. Hummel, who is responsible for security with Hagerstown Trust, said that measurements were taken Friday at the Smithsburg branch to have an ATM installed into the wall of the building.

The drive-through island ATMs are "made of concrete and steel and are virtually pretty secure. These guys just know what they're doing," he said.

The Wesel Boulevard branch had an ATM installed into the wall of the building after it was hit, he said.

"Any drive-up island-type ATM machine could be vulnerable" to a similar theft, he said. "There are literally dozens of drive-up island type ATMs in the four-state area."

The Maryland Association for Bank Security, Hagerstown Trust and Farmers & Mechanics Bank, which was the bank for the ATM that was struck in Frederick, are collaborating to offer a $10,000 reward to anyone with information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible, Hummel said.

Anyone who might have seen something suspicious Friday between midnight and 5 a.m. near the Hagerstown Trust ATM in Smithsburg, which sits about 50 feet from Md. 64, may call Knight at 240-313-2182.

Knight said anyone with information about the related cases may call the Hagerstown Police Department at 301-790-3700, West Virginia State Police in Martinsburg at 304-267-0001, Maryland State Police in Frederick at 301-644-4151 or the FBI in Frederick at 301-644-3460.

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