Thieves foiled in backhoe assault on ATM

Robbers, armed with a backhoe and dump truck, tried to steal an automatic teller machine from the Bank of America at 1508 Old Bridge Road, at about 4 a.m. Wednesday, said Detective Dennis Mangan, Prince William police.

The bank opened on time Wednesday morning despite the attempted robbery. Parking was problematic, but Connie Tobias and other bank customers put up with the inconvenience.

Tobias normally uses the drive-through, which was closed for crime scene investigation. She said her stop at the bank only took an additional five minutes.

“Seems like a pretty dumb way to rob a bank,” the Lake Ridge woman said.

Police responded to an alarm at the bank, and found the machine covered by a tarpaulin and loaded on a dump truck in the parking lot behind bank.

“They looked at the scene and found that a backhoe had been stolen from a neighborhood construction site,” Mangan said of the investigating officers.

Broken glass from the backhoe’s window, the ATM’s key pad, circuit boards and deposit envelopes littered the bank parking lot.

Several trees at the perimeter of the parking lot were scarred where the backhoe drivers apparently ran into them on the way to secluded back corner behind the bank.

The ATM was installed near the drive-through lanes at the bank near the front entrance of the bank.

“They drove the backhoe up, they ripped the ATM machine out of the ground,” Mangan said of the robbers.

“They took it to the bottom of the hill and they beat it with the [backhoe] bucket trying to get into it,” Mangan said.

“When they couldn’t get into it, they put the ATM machine into a stolen dump truck … it was stolen from PG County in May … and covered it with a tarp,” he said.

No one was in the lot when police arrived, Mangan said.

“When they pulled up they saw this dump truck here,” Mangan said of the officers who first arrived at the scene.

“The driver’s door was open. There was no one in it,” Mangan said.

“Citizens in the area reported seeing three white males running through their yard on High Street. K-9 and helicopters searched. There’s nobody in custody at this time,” Mangan said.

“The ATM machine was not entered. They beat on it, but they couldn’t get into it. So the deposits and the money are still in the machine,” Mangan said.

John Palmer services ATMs and said the concrete-encased machines are generally tamper resistant.

“It’s impressive the way it’s put together,” Palmer said at the crime scene Wednesday around 11 a.m.

“It’s probably three inches thick all the way around where the money is. The top is two inches thick,” the Diebold service technician said of the concrete that surrounds the machine.

“It’s stressed concrete, so you can’t just break it. You got to jack-hammer it awhile to get into it … or drill into it. It takes a couple of hours no matter how you go at it,” Palmer said of the machine that weighs between 2,000 and 2,500 pounds.

“They did a lot of stuff to it apparently. Rolled it down the hill, rammed it and everything else. They busted it up pretty good but they didn’t get into it,” Palmer said.

The modus operandi, Palmer said, has been used elsewhere.

“I’ve heard of it. Especially this year. Virginia Beach … a couple of them down there … down in the Carolinas they’ve hit them. I’ve heard of them catching people going down the road ’em on the back of a wrecker or something like that, but never getting away with it,” Palmer said.