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Police smash crime ring that stole high-tech equipment to rob ATMs

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Queensland Police have dismantled an alleged crime ring targeting ATM machines across southeast Queensland, with the alleged thieves accused of stealing more than $40,000 in cash.

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Two Sunshine Coast men faced the Maroochydore Magistrates Court yesterday on eight charges each, including entering premises with intent to cause indictable offences by break and wilful damage.

Sunshine Coast Detective Inspector David Drinnan said police were alleging a 32-year-old Little Mountain man and 39-year-old Parrearra man broke into three recycling centres, two businesses and a fire service organisation over a six-month period, stealing tens of thousands of dollars in cash from automatic teller machines, as well as expensive tools.

They allege among the tools stolen were hydraulic rescue devices, known as the “jaws of life”, which would have been used to prise open the ATMs.

Investigators launched operation Sierra Toucan after the first recycling centre in Narangba was broken into in early June, and cutting tools were used to force open an ATM on site.

“The investigation has been looking at a group of criminals, a syndicate that has been operating,” he said.

“They’ve been targeting recycling depots where they’ve been using sophisticated methods to break into these facilities and steal large sums of money.”

It’s alleged the two men fled with $20,000 in cash, then broke into a second recycling centre in Caloundra West the following month, where police believe they stole another $24,000.

He said the pair attempted further break-ins at a North Lakes business and a recycling centre in Glanmire, south of Gympie, in July and August, but were foiled after police had contacted centres to warn them about the spate of thefts.

On November 22, a Parkinson business, which supplied equipment to fire service organisations, was broken into and three sets of hydraulic rescue tools, known as the “jaws of life”, were stolen.

“It was breaking into premises to steal high level-devices that were going to assist in these types of offences,” he said.

About 3am yesterday, detectives intercepted a vehicle alleged to be connected to the thefts as it was travelling northbound on the Bruce Highway through the Glass House Mountains.

The two men were arrested after a search uncovered the stolen fire organisation’s tools in the back of the vehicle.

Police allege the tools were intended to assist in further ATM break-in attempts.

A 39-year-old man was remanded in custody, and a 32-year-old was released on bail after facing court yesterday.

Both men are due to reappear in court in February.

But Inspector Drinnan said police believed more people could face charges.

“There are more members that we believe are involved in the group,” he said.

“We’ll continue gathering evidence to put these before the court as well.”

– ABC / Tara Cassidy and Amy Sheehan

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