That was a question we asked all the employees of a grocery store located in Los Angeles after an ATM machine inside the grocery store was broken into on Father’s Day 2013 in the early morning hours just before the market opened for business. The police were called and they took a report but they hadn’t made any progress. Therefore the owner of the ATM machine call us to determine who may have broken into the ATM.

A Crazy Access Theory

There was no forced entry, no broken windows or doors so it had to be someone who had access to the market. The craziest access theory all the employees were floating around was that someone had gotten access to the roof of the market and had opened an air vent which is attached to vent that goes down to a ceiling inside if a coffee shop inside the grocery store. That vent is very narrow and ends inside an aluminum hood that is positioned directly over a grill that is hot all night because the pilot lights remain on even though the grill burners are turned off. So if someone managed to enter the vent from the roof they would have had to slide down a greasy aluminum vent shaft and then step on a hot grill and walk over to the ATM on the other side of the grocery store without leaving any greasy foot prints on the floor. Then they would have broken into the ATM returned to the hot grill stepped on the grill and climbed up the very narrow greasy vent to the roof. The person would have had to be bone thin to fit in the vent and been Superman to climb upward and out of the vent. There was only one person in the entire universe capable of doing that and that would have been Spiderman.

So we discounted the entry theory and focused on the owner of the market and his employees as possible suspects.

Interviews and Investigation Of Possible Employee Misconduct

We asked all the employees we interviewed if they were willing to speak with us voluntarily and would they be willing to take a polygraph if asked to do so. We also interviewed two vendors who rented space in the market and asked them if they would be willing to take a polygraph if asked to do so. We spent two days conducting interviews and on day two we had a four possible suspects in mind for a polygraph examination. What the police hadn’t learned but we did, was that one of the vendors who sold and repaired computers was just a was a few feet from the ATM. The police had checked out all the CCTV cameras in the store but they missed the most important CCTV camera and that was one that sat on a shelf pointing directly at the ATM in the computer vendor’s kiosk. When we asked the vendor to play back the video on the day of the burglary he told us that he had viewed the video and there was nothing that could be seen so he erased that day’s video.

Oh boy!! Red flag time!!

We then asked the computer vendor to show us any of his video that was taken around the same time the burglary took place in the morning hours so we could see for ourselves how obscure the video would be. The vendor showed us a video taken the exact same time as the burglary and we could have made out who the thief was in a heartbeat because the camera had infrared capability. Of course we asked this vendor the sixty four thousand dollar question, “would you be willing to take a polygraph?” “Sure” he says. We narrowed down our potential suspects to one employee and two vendors. Want to guess who the vendors were? Well the coffee shop owner who fabricated the story of Spiderman and the grease vent and the computer vendor. When the polygraph examiner showed up the only one who refused to take the polygraph was the computer vendor who by the way hadn’t lost a single computer or accessory from his kiosk when the burglary occurred. Remember his Kiosk was a few feet from the ATM. The net result is we accomplished our investigative assignment and identified the perpetrator. However, the police couldn’t arrest him because they had no evidence that the District Attorney would accept.

Successful, But Disappointing

This assignment was successfull but the end result was a disappointment to us. The client was very pleased with our corporate investigation because they wanted to set an example of being a pro-active company regarding this theft due to the fact that they wanted to replace the damaged ATM in the grocery store and they also had another ATM in another grocery store the same owner owned.