Friday, December 30, 2011

Chase Bank ATM Stolen and Cleaned Out in Record Time

Chase Bank branch similar to the Laguna Hills Branch where ATM was stolen - Click for larger image (

No Holdups - Chase Bank ATM Stolen and Cleaned Out in Record Time

In May 2008, I published an article titled “Bank Robbery Made Easy”. There, I described a new type of bank robbery that had recently burst upon the scene. Gone were the days of blowing up the safe with dynamite and then getting away on horseback. The new technique involved breaking into the ATM room, behind the scenes. Rather than targeting an old-fashioned brick and mortar bank, the robbers began looking look for bank branches housed within retail strip centers. After cutting through the roof of an adjacent storefront, the robbers could penetrate the demising wall between the suites and gain access to the ATM room. Once they were safe inside, the robbers would disable any security cameras and and alarm systems, and then go to work.

The older MAG 9000 Plasma Cutting Torch - Click for larger image (, in this case, meant cutting through the steel doors that armor the back of most ATMs. After strategically cutting through the armor, the robbers could remove several cassettes, which may collectively hold up to $125,000 in untraceable twenty-dollar bills. After loading the bills into bags, the robbers could retrace their steps and exit the building through the roof of the adjacent business.

For the cutting of steel, an old-fashioned kerosene blowtorch or even an acetylene cutting-torch will not suffice. The armor is too thick and the temperatures generated thereby are too low for adequate cutting. What, aspiring bank robbers ask, should they use to torch an ATM? Never fear, dear bank robbers, because you have unlimited access to the Magnum USA “Sea and Land” or “Blackhawk” labeled cutting torches. As stated in the Magnum USA website, “Consider the advantages in deploying a hand held "particle accelerator in a tube"™ to gain advantage over project initiatives. Operation is uncharacteristically quiet and it cuts like a master of improvisation. Sublimation is the key and our burning process, as it converts metal to a liquid state…”

Customers approach an unprotected exterior ATM at a suburban bank - Click for larger image ( we said in our 2008 article, the (older model) MAG 9000 cutting torch “cuts through an ATM like butter”. Better yet, the unit is Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) approved. In other words, an agency of the federal government officially approves of these tools. It is sad that the Secret Service has not noticed the threat to U.S. currency. The Department of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) is too busy cleaning up its gunrunning business to Mexico to focus on this threat. The new model MAG 9003, with 24-volt ignition creates a white-hot flame, yet it is not a firearm. MAG 9003 owners receive no protection under the Second Amendment to the Constitution, which guarantees the right to bear arms. This device is a bank robber’s dream coming true; an unlicensed, self-contained system that can cut steel plate wherever and whenever necessary.

ATM Ram Raid

On Friday December 23, 2011, thieves made a coordinated attack on an ATM at a Chase Bank branch in Laguna Hills, California. Using the cable-winch on a stolen flatbed tow truck, they attempted to wrench the ATM from its moorings. When the cable parted, they went to Plan-B, which consisted of ramming the ATM with the truck. Once they had freed the ATM, they pulled it up on to the flatbed and drove away.

Customers conduct business at an outdoor, exterior ATM that has no crash barriers or other protection - Click for larger image ( to a KABC-TV Los Angeles report, the thieves than drove to a location in nearby Lake Forest, where they “Used a blowtorch to open the machine and remove the cash…” From there, the perpetrators stole another truck and disappeared. As of this writing, the ATM robbers are still at large. If you meet someone in the islands with five-thousand twenty-dollar bills in their possession, it might be our robbers. If our robbers are sitting on an island, Googling this article, they are naive. They should know that IP address are traceable, back to their source. Did I just hear someone in the islands go "Gulp"?

In our previous article, we had some suggestions for the banking community. As we said then, every bank should quickly:
1. Add armor plating to all ATM rooms that share walls with neighboring businesses.
2. Add motion detection, smoke alarms and high-decibel horn alarms to all ATM rooms, thus making any break-in immediately obvious to the bank’s security department and painful to the robbers’ ears.
3. Add an additional armor to the identified weak points on all ATMs.
4. Require handgun type registration in order to purchase any high technology cutting torch (e.g., The MAG 9003).

ATM crash barriers should be designed to stop a Mack Truck - Click for larger image ( our original list, we now add one more suggestion. In front of each exposed ATM, install crash barriers capable of stopping a Mack Truck. Even in the Old West, banks utilized concrete and steel to armor their vaults. With the advent of storefront ATMs and a new class of cutting torch “firearms”, we need storefront safety barriers sufficient to protect both our bank deposits and anyone standing in front of an ATM. If the banking industry does not get serious about ATM security, we predict a future filled with ram raid ATM robberies. Protecting ATMs from theft is not brain surgery. It is more like “Banking 101”.

Email James McGillisEmail James McGillis