Cops nab suspect in alleged ATM tampering

Police have arrestesd a suspect who alegedly stole thousands of dollars from hundreds of San Franciscans using nothing but a piece of paper and a length of wire.

Bradley Taggart, 43, was apprehended on May 18 after police saw him try to remove money from an automated teller machine with which he had allegedly tampered, Inspector Jim Kelly said Wednesday.

A crook using a cigar-shaped piece of rolled-up paper was plugging the slot of an ATM from which money is dispensed at the Wash Club Laundromat on Frederick and Stanyan streets, according to Officer Greg Kane, of the Park district police station.

When customers tried to use the plugged-up ATM, money would become stuck behind the rolled paper and they would leave frustrated and empty-handed. The thief would return, remove the paper and use a wire device to pull out the stuck cash.

“We’d been having an ongoing problem for maybe a month or more,” said Paul Bang, owner of the Wash Club. “The last time he blew it because he did it at a time the store was open.”

Police responded to the latest ATM malfunction report on May 18, in which a woman withdrew $60 that never materialized.

Officers came to the store to watch surveillance tapes, but, “[The owner] turns the camera back live, they see [Taggart] on the live camera out there working on the machine,” San Francisco police Sgt. Darby Reid said.

Police booked Taggart on charges of attempted burglary, possession of burglary tools and possession of drug paraphernalia, Kelly said. The case was not prosecuted, Kelly said, because Taggart was not actually stealing when police caught him.

“He had a racket. God knows how many ATMs he’s been doing. He could be doing this all over the city. I know we weren’t the only one to have this problem,” Bang said.

The burglaries weren’t the first instance of ATM tampering San Francisco police have encountered.

In January 2006, police issued a fraud warning to users of ATMs citywide. Someone had attached a device to the card slot of an ATM on Market Street that recorded the information embedded in cards’ magnetic strips, as well as their personal identification numbers, which the crooks would use to drain victims’ accounts.

amartin@examiner.com

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