CLEVELAND (AP) — A criminal ring carefully planned and sometimes executed smash-and-grab thefts of ATMs in Cleveland and northeast Ohio that netted hundreds of thousands of dollars, authorities said Wednesday.
Eleven Cleveland men were indicted Tuesday on racketeering and other charges related to 10 thefts or attempted thefts of ATMs in five northeast Ohio counties since early 2015. The group could be responsible for more than 50 ATM thefts and that more arrests and charges are expected, Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Tim McGinty said at a news conference Wednesday.
Three men alleged to be the leaders of the ring were convicted in 2011 of breaking into a store and trying to steal an ATM, with two of the men serving prison time, McGinty said.
The thefts became more sophisticated, with the ring targeting convenience and drug stores with ATMs near the front door, authorities said. They would use stolen cargo vans to smash through store entrances in reverse, detaching cash machines from their moorings. The ATMs would be loaded into the van and taken to locations in Cleveland where they were opened using pry bars, power tools and cutting torches, authorities said.
Police found pieces of destroyed ATMs during a search Tuesday of an abandoned house on Cleveland's east side.
The ring initially targeted closed businesses and then began hitting open stores in the early morning with workers and sometimes customers inside, McGinty said.
"We were greatly worried that someone was going to get killed here," McGinty said.
Not all of the theft attempts succeeded. Authorities said members of the ring were scared off by police after smashing through the entrance of a Cleveland drug store in January. Another attempt was thwarted in July by an alert police officer in Mentor, about 20 miles east of Cleveland, who thought the presence of a cargo van in the area was suspicious and pulled it over. Occupants of the van were arrested.
Police in Strongsville, about 20 miles south of Cleveland, arrested several members of the ring Aug. 8 after a 20-mile chase that began seconds after an ATM was stolen from a convenience store in that city.
This story has been corrected to show that prosecutors say 11 men have been charged, not that prosecutors have indicted 11 men.