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ATM stolen from Laguna Hills Chase Bank

December 23, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
Thieves made off with an automated teller machine outside an Orange County Chase Bank in a brazen robbery Friday morning.

The incident happened at the branch on the 24000 block of El Toro Road in Laguna Hills.

Investigators later located the stolen machine a few miles away in Lake Forest, but all the cash was gone from the machine. They also recovered the getaway pickup truck that officials say was stolen originally from Santa Ana.

It remains unclear just how much money the thieves got away with. Orange County Sheriff's Department Spokesperson Jim Amormino said after the suspects took off with the machine, they pulled behind a commercial area and tore open the ATM using a blow torch.

"They knew exactly where to cut, how to get the money out," Amormino said.

Investigators say in addition to the ATM, the suspects also stole a light fixture near the machine, thinking it was a security camera.

Surveillance photos obtained by the O.C. Sheriff's Department show at least two suspects were involved in the heist. In the footage, the suspects drive up in a 2008 Ford flatbed truck and steal the machine.

Amormino said the suspects initially wrapped a cable around the machine in an attempt to pull it off its foundation. But when the cable snapped, the crooks then pushed the ATM over by ramming it with the truck, loaded it onto the flatbed and drove off just before 5 a.m.

"It's very brazen, no question," said Amormino.

The same branch was robbed last week, but authorities believe the two incidents are unrelated.

"The suspect description as well as the method of operation is totally different," said Amormino.

Nearby residents who drove up to get some quick cash were shocked by the news.

"I'm blown away. I'm in Orange County, one of the safest areas to live, and I came here to get some money to go shopping at the mall, and I don't know what I'm going to do now," said Laguna Hills resident Gayle Boulais.

Investigators say after the thieves dumped the empty machine and the tow truck in Lake Forest, they stole a white Chevy utility truck from a nearby plant nursery. The truck has a black stripe on the hood with California license plate 8B26258.

If you have any information that can help investigators solve this federal crime, you're asked to contact the Orange County Sheriff's Department at (877) TIP-OCCS or (877) 847-6227

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