This was a challenging investigation of an ATM robbery located in a grocery store was broken into on Father’s Day 2013. Occurring in the early morning hours just before the store opened for business, the police were called to investigate but though they took a report, they hadn’t made any progress in recovering the money or the thieves.

The owner of the ATM machine called us to determine who may have broken into the ATM. There were no signs of forced entry, such as broken windows or doors, so it had to be someone who had access to the grocery store. One theory the employees proposed was that the thieves had gotten access via the roof, opening an air vent that was attached to a ceiling vent of a coffee shop located inside the store. That vent was very narrow and ended inside an aluminum hood that was positioned directly over a grill. However, the grill remained hot all night due to its pilot lights remaining on, even though the grill burners were turned off. So, if someone did access the store through the vent, they would have had to slide down a greasy aluminum vent shaft and then step on a hot grill, then walk over to the ATM on the other side of the grocery store without leaving any greasy footprints on the floor. On escape, they would have to do all of that in reverse. It wasn’t an impossible scenario (for Spiderman), but it was highly unlikely.

So we discounted this theory and focused on the owner of the grocery store and his employees as possible suspects. Our investigators asked all the employees and two vendors who rented space if they were willing to speak with us voluntarily, as well as be willing to take a polygraph if asked to do so. After two days of conducting interviews, we had a four possible suspects in mind for a polygraph examination. Our investigations had found what the police hadn’t: one of the vendors, who sold and repaired computers, was just a few feet away from the ATM. The police had checked out all the CCTV cameras in the store but they missed one of the most important ones, which was the 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 it — very suspicious behavior!

Surveillance Video Detects Thief

We then asked the computer vendor to show us any of his surveillance video that was taken around the same time the burglary took place so we could see for ourselves how obscure the video would be. The vendor showed us footage taken the exact same time as the burglary. We could have made out who the thief was in a heartbeat because the camera had infrared capability! Of course, we asked the vendor if he would be willing to take a polygraph. He consented. However, 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, despite the fact that his kiosk was just a few feet from the ATM). So, guess who the thief was?

We accomplished our robbery investigation and identified the thief. However, the police couldn’t arrest him because they had no evidence that the District Attorney would accept. Even though the client (the grocery store owner) was very pleased as they wanted to set an example of being a pro-active company, the end result was a disappointment to us because no criminal charges were laid.