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A Thing

ATM News of the Weird From LogoThis story was originally published on, March 22, 2005; reprinted with permission. (c) 2005 NetWorld Alliance LLC. All rights reserved.

Editor's Note: Following are some of the strangest items recently encountered by an ATMmarketplace Editor during daily searches for ATM-related news. ATMmarketplace collects these odd stories and publishes them on a regular basis in hopes of tickling readers' funny bones.

The Victim Was My Girlfriend ...

Roy Singleton told Newport, Ky., police a pair of armed robbers made him drive them back and forth across the Ohio River on Dec. 6, repeatedly forcing him to withdraw cash from his girlfriend's bank account through an ATM.

The story was amazingly similar to the one relayed to Cincinnati police by Cincinnati Councilman David Pepper 15 months ago.

Unlike Pepper's October 2003 ordeal, for which two men were ultimately convicted, Singleton's story was full of holes from the start, reported the "Cincinnati Post." Newport police could find no evidence to support his claims.

Singleton said robbers made him withdraw $810 from the account of his girlfriend, for whom he had gone out to buy some peppermint schnapps as the two watched Monday night football.

Singleton, a 38-year-old temporary services worker, told police he left in his girlfriend's car about 7:30 p.m. for a Fort Thomas liquor store.

Somehow, he ended up on Riverboat Row in Newport. While stopped there, Singleton told police a couple threatened him with a gun and jumped into his car.

He said the pair took his wallet from him and his girlfriend's ATM card, which they found on the back seat floorboard when they got in, and made him drive to a nearby Fifth Third Bank ATM.

Singleton said they forced him to drive back and forth between the ATM and a Cincinnati parking lot until almost 8 a.m. the next morning, making seven cash withdrawals and the same number of interstate trips. Then his kidnappers left.

To check out Singleton's story, police viewed the tape from the ATM surveillance camera. Instead of photos of bad guys, they watched a solo Singleton make 11 trips to the ATM (four more than he had reported). Singleton was charged with fraudulent use of a credit card over $100 and falsely reporting an incident to police.

Beats Aluminum Cans

Arild Tofte and Kaare Heggdal know that recycling pays, but they weren't prepared for the jackpot that a scrapped ATM contained.

The two Norwegians run a recycling company in the western Norway town of Aaroedalen and had been hired by the Sparebanken Moere bank to remove an outdated ATM from a gas station, according to an "Associated Press" report published in January.

Tofte, 30, said the woman on duty at the gas station was skeptical when the two men showed up with a trolley and a truck, wanting to remove her ATM.

"She calmed down when I explained that the machine was empty and that we had a contract to pick it up," Tofte told the local Romsdals Budstikke newspaper.

During their rounds to pick up more scrap, they got a call saying a security guard needed the machine. "The guy was apparently a bit agitated," Tofte said. "He was very eager to empty the cash from the machine."

The cash was removed. The bank, which blamed the incident on a communications mix-up, didn't say how much was in the ATM.

But Tofte said the guard who emptied the machine told him it was enough to buy a house, take a luxury vacation and still have money to burn.

Cut to the Chase

A burglar broke three saw blades Jan. 16 while trying to saw through the safe of an Oxnard, Calif., ATM before being caught and taken to jail.

Police were alerted to a problem at a Bank of America ATM when a burglar alarm sounded at 10:03 p.m., reported the "Ventura County Star." Oxnard Police Officer Chris Williams responded to the call.

The ATM is set into a wall of an old Woolworth building that is being renovated. From the outside, the building looked undisturbed, Williams said.

Williams, though, decided to be thorough. An employee let him into the building. The inside was cavernous and dark, with only a closet-shaped drywall structure built over the ATM on one side. With his flashlight illuminating the way, Williams saw that a 5-by-5-foot hole had been sawed into the structure.

When he flashed his light into the hole, a bleeding man burst out of a door on the other side. Williams ran after the man for nearly three blocks before he pushed him, and the man tripped and fell.

Williams arrested Jose Langarica, 45, who was booked into Ventura County Jail on suspicion of commercial burglary and resisting arrest.

Langarica allegedly sawed the hinges off a door on the outside of the building, and then propped the door back up to make it appear the building had been undisturbed, Williams said.

Then, he broke three saw blades trying to get into the safe. In the process, he cut himself and embedded one of the saw blades in the safe's hinge.

Failure by Fire

It seemed like a good plan for quick cash: Use a cutting torch to open an ATM. But that was before the machine erupted in a ball of fire.

About 4:40 a.m. Feb. 2, a man tried to burn open an ATM at a Central Bank of Kansas City branch. He burned off some hinges and was peeling back metal when the receipt paper inside the machine ignited.

The incident, recorded on a surveillance tape, looked like an explosion, police said.

The theft attempt triggered an alarm. The would-be thief fled with no money. Arriving officers found smoke coming out of the ATM, according to a report in the "Kansas City Star."

Police think the same man used a crowbar Jan. 20 in an attempt to open the same ATM. That incident caused minor damage to the machine.

No Thanks, I'm Stuffed

Chattanooga, Tenn., police said an ATM at a local bank swallowed customers' bank cards on Feb. 7.

A customer went to use the ATM at a SunTrust branch, according to a report in the "Chattanoogan." He said it appeared the machine was not working and that his card became stuck.

When the customer finally got his card to come back out, nine other cards came along with it.

Police said eight of the bankcards were from SunTrust and one was from First Tennessee. Three of the cardholders had reported them missing.

Ever Heard of Overkill?

Laurel, Md., police believe a bizarre incident in which an unmanned van crashed through a furniture store wall may be related to an attempted ATM theft.

According to a report in the "Laurel Leader," police received a report of a break-in at the Bargain Depot furniture store at 2:51 a.m. Feb. 5. When officers arrived, they discovered that a van had crashed through the front of the building, causing a fire inside.

"The furniture that was caught under the wheel of the vehicle caught fire, and the smoke at the scene was so heavy officers couldn't enter the building, so they called in the fire department," said Jim Collins, police spokesman. "The sprinkler system had been activated, and we didn't know if anyone was still in the vehicle."

Once the smoke in the building was cleared by using the giant propeller of a Montgomery County airboat, police determined that the van was unoccupied, but a 10-pound rock had been placed on its accelerator.

Police received a call at 4:08 a.m. reporting a break-in at a nearby convenience store. When officers arrived at that location, they found an ATM overturned in the parking lot, and a big hole in the wall of the store.

"The store's videotape showed two suspects broke into the store by smashing a glass door," Collins said. "They tied a cable around the ATM machine, attached it to a stolen dump truck and pulled the ATM machine through the store's brick wall, out of the building. It took them a minute to do that.

"The ATM fell over. It's extremely heavy, and they couldn't pick it up, so they left it in the parking lot."

Collins said a witness told police that when the burglars abandoned the machine, they drove the stolen dump truck into the parking lot of a church across the street. Police dogs were brought in, but failed to pick up the burglars' trail.

Police speculate that the two incidents were carried out by the same people, and that the furniture store break-in may have been a diversionary tactic used to keep police busy as the suspects went after their intended target, the ATM.

Damage to the High's store is estimated at $6,000. Managers at the Bargain Depot estimate their damage to be close to $200,000.

Now That's Chutzpah

Federal authorities have accused 39-year-old Ronald Terry McElvain of stealing an ATM from a La Grande, Ore., Wal-Mart, then spending the $60,000 inside it before calling the FBI to ask how long he'd spend in jail for the crime.

After more than three months on the run, McElvain was arrested March 8 and taken to the Union County Jail. Prosecutors say he may face up to 10 years in prison, reported the "Oregonian."

The heist, as described in an FBI affidavit filed March 10 in U.S. District Court in Umatilla County, allegedly began the morning of Nov. 29. McElvain walked into Wal-Mart with a handcart at about 7:30 a.m. and covered the ATM with a tarp.

The ATM, however, was too heavy. Ten minutes later, he returned with a friend, Shane Giese. The two men wheeled the tarp-wrapped ATM out of the store.

As they strained to lift it into a sport utility vehicle, part of the tarp lifted. Giese glanced in. It was no gun safe, as McElvain had told him earlier. Giese refused to help any further, forcing McElvain to leave the ATM on the parking lot curb, the affidavit said.

Authorities visited McElvain's parents on Nov. 30. His mother told police that her son and another man had been at their La Grande home the previous day working in their shop most of the afternoon.

Ida McElvain said her son took a popcorn cooker, a large, heavy, cauldronlike device, off his tilt trailer.

Two days later, when authorities again visited the home of McElvain's parents, they saw the cooker and tilt trailer. Next to the trailer, they noticed an object covered with a tarp. Lifting the corner of the tarp, they found a lock, key and ATM instruction card. Later, with search warrant in hand, they seized the top section of an ATM, along with placards and a plastic top cover.

On Dec. 7, the Union County sheriff's office received a call from Jim Magill, McElvain's cousin in Meridian, Idaho. According to the affidavit, Magill said he had received a call from McElvain on the evening of Nov. 29, asking Magill if he could give him a ride to a hospital in Portland to take care of a medical problem.

Magill agreed. They drove to Portland that night, staying overnight at the Troutdale Motel 6, the affidavit said. The next day, McElvain stopped at Division Street Auto Wholesale and picked out a white Ford Explorer. He paid with cash taken out of a backpack.

Later that month, authorities recovered the bottom part of the ATM from a commercial storage unit in La Grande. A hole had been cut out of it. On Feb. 28, McElvain called the FBI office in Pendleton. According to the affidavit, McElvain asked about the jail term for taking the ATM. He was nearly out of money and wanted to get his sentence over with, the document said.

McElvain has a record of brushes with the law. Sentenced to two years in prison on charges of first-degree theft and second-degree burglary in 1996, he was still on probation for those crimes. Original:

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