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Orange County

Stolen: Not Just Cash but ATM

June 12, 2003|David Haldane | Times Staff Writer

In what law enforcement officials say is the first crime of its kind in Orange County, a Rancho Santa Margarita bank's ATM was rammed off its foundation by a stolen truck early Wednesday and hauled off in a second vehicle.

"This method of operation is distinct," said Jim Amormino, a spokesman for the Orange County Sheriff's Department. "It's the first time that a whole machine was taken."

The theft -- from South County Bank, in a shopping center on Avenida de las Flores -- was discovered about 2:30 a.m. by a customer returning a video to an adjacent Blockbuster store, Amormino said.

Investigators believe that at least two people were involved. The stand-alone machine was rammed with a truck stolen in Irvine, knocking it off its foundation. The thieves then hoisted it onto another vehicle and fled, leaving the first truck with its doors open and engine running.

"They obviously were in a hurry to get out of there," Amormino said.

The ATM was found gutted in an alley in Hawaiian Gardens and turned over to the FBI, he said, adding that an unknown amount of money was stolen.

It was the 12th robbery of an ATM in Southern California in the last two months and the fourth in Orange County, Amormino said. It is not known whether the crimes are related, he said.

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