Forklift used to steal Florida ATM

Third time this year thieves have used construction equipment on local ATMs


The third time might have been the charm.

Using a stolen all-terrain forklift, some enterprising bandits busted through an 8-foot fence, mowed over a hedge and shoved a Bank of America drive-through ATM into the back of their dump truck in Miramar early Thursday morning.

Investigators found the abandoned truck and the ATM in Miami-Dade County hours later, said police spokesman Bill Robertson. Some of the ATM's money was gone.

It was at least the third time this year that thieves have tried to steal or crack open ATMs with construction equipment in Broward County, and could be the first time they were successful.

On April 25, thieves used a dump truck stolen from a Delray Beach recycling center to smash into a cash machine outside a Bank of America in Lauderdale Lakes. On March 5, burglars tried to use a front-end loader stolen from a construction site to break into the same ATM.

Neither attempt was successful, although police suspect the same people were involved.

Robertson said Miramar investigators plan to compare notes with detectives in Lauderdale Lakes.

Police say all that remained from Thursday's theft were some ripped out wires and chunks of concrete where the machine had been bolted down at the bank at 15999 SW 29th St.

"When we got the silent alarm, we responded and saw the drive-up ATM machine had been literally picked up and stolen," said Robertson.

The heist occurred in less than three minutes from the time the security camera spotted the dump truck arrive just after 4 a.m., followed by the yellow forklift seconds later.

The forklift was taken from a construction site next door. The thief used a universal key designed to open several types of locks, Robertson said. The dump truck had been reported stolen from a Miami-Dade County construction site earlier that morning, Robertson said.

"This was either well-thought out and well-planned or a crime of convenience when they saw the forklift next door," he said. "But I don't think everyone carries around a universal key in their pocket."

An ATM can hold between a couple hundred to several tens of thousands of dollars, said Lorraine Russell, a spokeswoman for NCR Corp. in Ohio, which manufactures the machines.

"Looks like you guys had a backhoe bandit, as we all call them," she said. ATM thefts are common, though usually the smaller ones found in convenience stores are targeted, said Russell. Afterward, the burglars must break through a concrete and steel vault to access the money inside.

"Almost 99.9 percent of the time they don't get in," she said. Some banks install safeguards such as dye packs or GPS tracking units into the ATM machines.

With the help of a GPS tracker installed in the dump truck, authorities found it abandoned before 10 a.m. near Krome Avenue and Tamiami Trail. Less than 9 miles away, officials found the ATM in a field near the 16700 block of Southwest 96th Street.

The forklift was left near the bank. Only a man driving the forklift could be seen in the bank surveillance video police released.

"Partial entry had been made into the ATM," said Robertson. "It appears the money that was available for withdrawal was removed but the money made in deposits was still secure."

The amount of money stolen was not disclosed.

Authorities ask that anyone with information call Broward Crime Stoppers at 954-493-8477 (TIPS).

Staff Researcher William Lucey contributed to this report.