Four men are in custody after an ATM theft Wednesday morning from an Orange County Rite-Aid and authorities are investigating whether the crime is connected to a series of recent robberies.
Around 3 a.m. there was a burglary at a Rite Aid store in Irvine. Nothing was taken, but the store also did not have an ATM, which has been the focus in a string of similar robberies.
Less than half an hour later, police believe the same suspects used a crowbar to break into another Rite Aid store in the 13000 block of Jamboree Road, triggering a burglar alarm.
Authorities said the suspects worked fast, tearing apart an ATM. They didn't take the machine, but they did take an undisclosed sum of cash and inadvertently also picked up a GPS device that was in the ATM.
"When the officers got there we found the front door had been pried open and at the same time we're there that's when we get a call from the owners of the GPS unit saying the GPS that was inside that store is now mobile," said Sgt. Andy Briozy of the Tustin Police Department.
Police used the device to find the thieves in a Cadillac at a gas station in Lake Forest.
The occupants in a second vehicle sought in the theft, a rented Dodge Challenger, led police on a brief pursuit before stopping on the 5 Freeway. Large amounts of cash, likely taken from the Tustin store, were found inside the Cadillac sports sedan and Challenger. A crowbar was also located in the Challenger.
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The other thefts at Orange County Rite Aid stores in Fountain Valley, Westminster and Dana Point were reported earlier this month.
Tustin police said they are talking to other law enforcement agencies in the area because there have been at least a dozen similar burglaries in recent months.
Most of the stores were Rite Aids and had the same type of ATM, sponsored by the School's First Credit Union.