Four charged for stealing ATMs as string of thefts continues
A string of ATM thefts has been taking place in Anchorage, with thieves swiping entire machines by towing them away from local banks and businesses.
Some have been more successful than others, but most if not all are apparently fueled by the desire to get money for drug habits.
"We are seeing a lot more heroin cases in the last two years than we have in the past," said Asst. U.S. Attorney Kelly Cavanaugh.
According to court documents, four people have been charged in two separate incidents at two different First National Bank locations in the last week and a half alone.
"Based on interviews listed in the complaint, they are all drug users," Cavanaugh said. "Specifically, heroin and opioid users."
Jerd Thacker, Cristi Cozzetti, and Jordan Cook were all found in possession of a stolen ATM in Big Lake early last Thursday morning. That was the first theft. They were subsequently arrested that same night and charged via criminal complaint for possession of stolen bank property.
Adrian Turnbow has also been charged, but only for the second theft and only for bank larceny via criminal complaint thus far. He had initially been arrested for the first theft, but was let go.
But then he was reportedly caught "red-handed" trying to rip an ATM from the wall of a bank earlier this week. He fled APD officers and was later caught.
He could, however, face charges for the earlier theft as authorities believe he may have been involved in that as well.
There's a maximum of 10 years prison time for each crime and fines of up to $250,000, Cavanaugh said.
All four are in custody and all have prior criminal charges from the past, including for crimes such as forgery, assault and reckless driving. They've all been confirmed to have had some type of involvement with illicit drugs.
However, Cavanaugh said he doesn't believe these four are responsible for all of the thefts seen since last fall.
"I don't think these are the only individuals involved in stealing ATMs in Anchorage," he said, "but I think this is a good start."
And though they haven't been charged for it, authorities are also looking into whether those four had something to do with with an attempted - though unsuccessful - ATM theft at a Northrim Bank branch over the weekend.
But the thefts and how they've happened seem to be a trend.
"Many of them have been where a front-end loader or tractor has essentially ripped the ATM from (locations)," Cavanaugh said, "and carried it off in early morning hours."
At least a dozen ATM thefts since last November have made it to the level of federal investigation. No other cases have seen arrests just yet, according to Cavanaugh.
There were three ATM thefts in November, one in December, four in January, one in February, along with one attempted, and two thus far this March, plus one attempted.
And like many of Anchorage's issues, Cavanaugh said the far-from-easy solution seems to start with stopping drug abuse.
"I do believe that if we reduce the drug problems in Anchorage, we'll see a decrease in property crime and violent crime as well," he said.
Anchorage Police and FBI authorities are also continuing investigations into the thefts. Cavanaugh said the case it in its very early stages, and while the group has been charged with a complaint, the four have yet to be charged by grand jury.